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and the Air Wsir in EuiX) pe 

General Carl A. Spaatz, 1945. 

and the Air War in Euro pe 

Richard G. Davis 

Air Force 


Washington, D.C. 


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Davis, Richard G. 

Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe / Richard G. Davis. 

p. cin~(General Histories) 
An expansion of the author's thesis. 
Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. 
ISBN 0-912799-75-7 (casebound).~ISBN 0-912799-77-3 (perfectbound) 
1. Spaatz, Carl, 1891-1974. 2. Generals-United States-Biogn^by. 3. 
United States. Air Force-Biography. 4. Aeronautics, Military-United States- 
-History. 5. World War, 1939-1945-Aerial operations, American 6. World 
War, 1939-1945-Campaigns-Westem 
I. Title. II. Series. 
UG626.2.S66D38 1992 

[B] 92-14889 CIP 

Extended portions of this work have appeared in a doctoral dissertation 
completed by die author for George Washington University. The earUer version 
is copyrighted in its entirety in the author's name. Open permission for reprint 
and reissue of portions of this book by agencies of the Department of Defense 
is hereby granted. Requests by nongovernment agencies or individuals for per- 
mission to cite from this work under fair use doctrine may be addressed to 
the CentCT for Air Force History, Boiling AFB, DC 20332-6098. 

By special arrangement, this publication is being offered for sale by the 
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 

For Sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, D.C. 20402 


Carl A. Spaatz and the Air War in Europe offers the first detailed review of 
Spaatz as a commander. It examines how the highest ranking U.S. airman in the 
European Theater of Operations of World War II viewed the war, worked with 
the British, and wielded the formidable air power at his disposal. It identifies 
specifically those aspects of his leadership that proved indispensable to the 
Allied victory over Nazi Germany. 

As Chief of the Air Corps Plans Section and, beginning in 1941, as first 
Chief of the Air Staff, Spaatz helped prepare the United States for war by 
overseeing an unprecedented buildup of military air capability. As Commander 
of the Eighth Air Force, he expanded and maintained a network of bases from 
which his bombers could strike at Germany from England. As General 
Eisenhower's adviser and Commander of the Northwest African Air Forces, he 
reorganized and vastly improved dispersed and difficult-to-supply Allied air 
activities. After assuming command of all U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, 
he controlled the American contribution to the Combined Bomber Offensive. 

Spaatz's forces destroyed the Luftwaffe, first by employing new long-range 
fighters in vigorous counter-air actions and then, when the Luftwaffe as- 
siduously avoided further engagements, by forcing it to fight to defend the 
petroleum industry that fueled it. Only after a protracted debate concerning 
which targets — oil or transportation — were to receive top priority did he win the 
right from skeptical Allied principals to mount strategic bombing missions 
against German oil production facilities. With the Luftwaffe effectively 
paralyzed, Spaatz moved against bridges, ports, railyards, and roads and, finally, 
crushed the Nazi war economy. 

The Anglo-American partnership, although triumphant in the end, was not 
easy. Its lines of authority were frequently and hotly debated. Through portraits 
of major Allied civilian and military personalities, this study describes several 
contentious interactions around which Spaatz maneuvered adroitly to achieve 
his broad military objectives. 

Author Richard Davis contrasts American and British grand strategy, battle 
tactics, and operations, laying bare the political considerations that necessarily 
influenced Allied planning. He demonstrates how clashes among only a few 
individuals can profoimdly affect command decisions and the successful pro- 
secution of coalition warfare. Lessons contained in his study have implications 
even now in the post-Desert Storm era. That the Air Force today is able to pro- 
ject global strength is due in large measure to the foresight and tenacity of Carl 
Spaatz, who freed air power to become the dominant force of modem warfare. 

Air Force Historian 


United States Air Force 
Historical Advisory Committee 
(As of July 1, 1992) 

Professor Roger E. Bilstein 
University of Houston 
Clear Lake 

Dr. Christopher J, Bowie 
The RAND Corporation 

Lt. Gen. Charles G. Boyd 
Commander, Air University 

Professor Wayne S. Cole 
University of Maryland 
College Paik 

Lt. Gen. Bradley C. Hosmer 


USAF Academy 

Col. Donald S. Lopez 
USAF, Retired 
National Air and Space 

Mr. Felix C. Lowe 
Smithsonian Institution Press 

Dr. Peter Paret 

Institute for Advanced Study 

Ms. Ann Petersen 

The General Counsel, USAF 

Gen. Brycc Poe, n 
USAF, Retired 
Air Force Historical 


This study is an expansion of a doctoral dissertation I began in 1982. 
Initially 1 sought to tell the story of the air war in Europe from a new perspec- 
tive — that of the senior U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF) officer in the theater, 
General Carl A. Spaatz. Little did I realize the magnitude of the task. I discov- 
ered a man who had stood close to the central events of the conflict in Europe. 
Without Spaatz and his insistence on bombing the German oil industry, the war 
in Europe might have lasted several more months. Spaatz commanded more 
men than Patton or Rommel ever led. By the end of May 1945 his forces could 
deliver more destructive power than any force before the advent of nuclear 
weapons. Thus, an understanding of the part Spaatz played in the victory of the 
Allied coalition is necessary to any serious study of World War II. 

In the course of investigating Spaatz 's activities during the war, I soon real- 
ized that many of the conventional interpretations of the role of the U.S. Army 
Air Forces in Europe sprang from the immediate post- World War II era when 
the AAF was in the last rounds of its fight to gain independence from the U.S. 
Army. As a consequence, early U.S. air historians tended to downplay the short- 
comings of air power and to emphasize the advantages of centralized command 
of air power by airmen operating autonomously. In this work I have attempted 
to present a more balanced view of the effectiveness of air power. 

By its very nature this study of the military life of Carl A. Spaatz is virtually 
a history of U.S. military aviation from its beginnings to the end of World War 
II in Europe. To place Spaatz in the context of his times, I found it necessary to 
examine the development of U.S. military aviation thought and technology. 
From his tour as Commandant of the Issoudun Pursuit Training Center in France 
in 1917, where he first displayed his skills as an administrator and trainer of 
men, through his service as special observer during the Battle of Britain in the 
summer of 1940, Spaatz 's career reflected the continual changes in air power. 

Immediately after World War I, Spaatz commanded the sole pursuit group 
stationed in the continental United States and led the flight of its air elements 
from Texas to Michigan without the loss of a man or machine (no mean feat in 
1922). Once in Michigan, he established his group at Selfridge Field, which had 
been abandoned two years earlier. Leaving Selfridge in 1924, he attended the 
Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field near Norfolk, Virginia. 

At that time and place the school was far removed from the future period of 
intellectual and doctrinal ferment in which it produced the American theory of 
daylight precision bombing. Next, Spaatz served in Washington, D.C., in the Air 
Service's Training and Operations Section. There he testified as a defense wit- 
ness in the controversial court-martial of Brig. Cten. William "Billy" Mitchell. 



During the late 1920s and 1930s Spaatz switched from commanding fighters to 
commanding bombers — a career move that mirrored the Air Corps' change in 
emphasis from pursuit to bombardment aviation. At the same time, he absorbed 
the new theories that preached the ability of the heavily armed bomber, flying a 
tight defensive formation, to penetrate successfully deep into enemy territory to 
destroy vital economic targets and to return, all the while unescorted by friendly 
fighter aircraft. Even subsequent firsthand experience of the British and German 
failure to bomb effectively in daylight failed to persuade him to modify his 
belief in unescorted bombing. 

Before U.S. entry into World War II, Spaatz, as Chief of the Air Corps Plans 
Section and, upon the formation of the AAF in June 1941, as first Chief of the 
Air Staff, helped to plan and supervise the vast expansion of U.S. military air 
power. On July 1, 1939, the Air Corps had a force of 1,239 combat aircraft, 570 
training planes, 20,191 enlisted men, 633 aviation cadets, and 2,502 officers. 
Many of the aircraft were obsolescent; there were no advanced training aircraft; 
and all but 45 of the officers were rated pilots. Thirty-two months later, on 
March 1, 1942, the AAF had 2,393 combat akcraft (2,182 rated as modem), 
10,087 trainers (2,541 advanced), 312,405 enlisted men, 32,896 cadets, and 
27,446 officers (13,631 nonpilots).! These figures represented an increase of 
more than 1,000 percent in every category except combat aircraft, which 
increased only 200 percent. 

With the onset of war, Spaatz took command of the Eighth Air Force and 
helped prepare a base capable of sustaining the thousands of planes scheduled to 
operate against Germany from Britain. After Spaatz had launched only a handful 
of heavy-bomber missions against nearby French targets, however, Lt. Gen. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower summoned Spaatz to the North African Theater to advise 
him and, eventually, to command all Allied air power there. 

In North Africa the organizational chaos of his geographically scattered 
command tested his logistical and organizational abilities to the utmost, but by 
the finish of the Allies' campaign against the Axis forces in Tunisia, Spaatz had 
produced a well-run, efficient force. Also in North Africa, he played a signifi- 
cant role in solving the dispute between the Army ground and air elements about 
the effectiveness of the AAF's handling of close air support. 

The fall of Tunisia led to the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy and a period 
of frustration for Spaatz. After overseeing the reduction of the Island of 
Pantelleria by air power, Spaatz saw his influence on operations decline as 
Eisenhower increasingly relied on British Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder. In 
the summer and autumn of 1943, Spaatz concentrated on perfecting the organi- 
zation of the AAF in the Mediterranean and on obtaining and establishing a new 
strategic American air force to operate against Germany from its unprotected 
southern flank. 

At the end of 1943, Spaatz left Italy for London where he assumed com- 
mand of the two American strategic air forces operating against the Germans. 



As the strategic air commander, he made his two most decisive contributions to 
Allied victory. With the help of an influx of long-range fighter-escort aircraft, he 
launched, in the first five months of 1944, an intensive counter-air campaign 
that emasculated the Luftwaffe fighter force. By the time of the invasion of 
Normandy, the German air force no longer had the strength to interfere with the 
invasion or to defend German industry from each large American bomber mis- 

Shortly before the invasion, Spaatz, after a long policy struggle within the 
Allied coalition, began a strategic bombing campaign against the German oil 
industry. This campaign damaged vital cogs of the Nazi war machine by 
grounding a large portion of the Luftwaffe starving it of aviation fuel, and by 
impairing the mobility of the Wehrmacht, leaving it almost helpless to counter 
the maneuvers of its enemies. 

Under Spaatz's leadership, in the autumn and winter of 1944-1945, the U.S. 
Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSTAF) helped to bring the German war econ- 
omy to a halt by adding the transportation network to its target priorities. 
Spaatz's forces also participated in the most controversial bombing raid of the 
European war when they joined with British Bomber Command to level the cen- 
ter of Dresden on February 14, 1945. An exemplar of AAF bombing policy and 
operations, this raid carried a high proportion of incendiary bombs, was directed 
at a railroad marshaling yard, and was executed in nonvisual bombing condi- 
tions. It was not carried out to induce terror but was intended to give direct 
assistance to the Soviets' winter offensive by destroying a transportation center 
in eastern Germany. In contrast, the February 3, 1945, mission against Berlin 
was specifically ordered by Spaatz to shake the morale of the German High 
Command and government. 

In the middle of April 1945, Spaatz ended the strategic bombing campaign. 
Thereafter, the bombers devoted their efforts to aiding the ground forces and 
flying supplies to alleviate famine in Holland. Spaatz attended the German sur- 
renders to the Allies at Reims and Berlin on May 7 and May 9, 1945. 

This work is neither a full-scale biography of Carl A. Spaatz nor a compre- 
hensive history of the USAAF in action against the European Axis powers from 
1942 to 1945. Instead it studies Spaatz as a military leader by examining his 
thoughts and actions within the context of his times. By hewing to Spaatz's per- 
spective I could not follow the entire course of the American strategic bomber 
offensive in Europe. Those readers looking for a description of the Eighth Air 
Force under Ira Eaker's leadership or of Spaatz's valuable contributions in the 
postwar era must look elsewhere. But a year-long trip to North Africa and the 
Mediterranean enabled me to take a close look at the birth pangs of modem 
American tactical air power, to explore the creation of the under-appreciated 
Fifteenth Air Force, and to thoroughly study the last eighteen months of the 
American air effort in Europe once Spaatz had returned to the strategic cockpit 
in London. 



Many archivists, colleagues, and professors contributed to this work. 
Mary Wolfskill at the Library of Congress; Will Mahoney at the Modem 
Military Division of the National Archives; and my friends at the Suitland, 
Maryland, National Records Center — Richard L. Boylan, Henry Mayer, and 
Bill Getchell — all contributed particular expertise. Col. Jolm F. Shiner, 
former Deputy Chief, Office of Air Force History; Herman S. Wolk, Senior 
Historian, Center for Air Force History; Brig. Gen. Harris Hull, USAF 
(Ret.); Dr. Richard Kohn, former Chief, Office of Air Force History; and 
Professor Wesley Newton of Auburn University read several versions of the 
manuscript and served as final review panelists. Their advice proved crucial 
in the last revision. David Mets, historian at the Armament Division, Eglin 
Air Force Base, Florida, and author of a biography of General Spaatz, re- 
viewed the manuscript and supplied advice from his own extensive know- 
ledge. William Heimdahl, Chief, Historical Support Division, Center for Air 
Force History, and MSgt. Roger Jemigan spent considerable time locating 
obscure documents in the microfilm collection. Dr. Daniel R. Mortensen, a 
tactical air power historian at the Center for Air Force History, shared his 
research on North Africa and helped to refine the treatment of several 
topics. Patrick E. Murray, Chief Historian, Third Air Force, England, made 
a special mp to the Imperial War Museum in London to locate photographs. 

Other colleagues with the Center for Air Force History deserve special 
credit, having learned more about Spaatz than they probably ever wished to. 
Jacob Neufeld, Director of the Center for Air Force History, gave me gen- 
erous amounts of time to work on the manuscript. Dr. Richard I. Wolf 
proofread large sections of the manuscript and helped me with printers and 
word processors. Two very hard working and professional editors, Mary Lee 
Jefferson of the Center for Air Force History and Priscilla Taylor of 
Editorial Experts, Inc., spent many hours smoothing my prose and forcing 
me to clarify, in as few words as possible, points and concepts I had 
glossed over or abbreviated. Ms. Jefferson then patiently shepherded the 
book through the publishing process, coordinating the efforts of many others. 
Dr. Alfred M. Beck, Chief, Histories Division, corrected my haphazard 
German spelling. Editor David R. Chenoweth designed and typeset the 
statistical appendices. Anne E. Johnson, Chief, Editorial Services, lent moral 
and technical support in the last phases of publication. Members of the 
Graphics Office for the Air Force District of Washington made outstanding 
contributions. Susan Linders, Chief, Conventioi«il Graphics, oversaw 
production of the book's artwork. Bruce John and Protean Gibril prepared 
the maps; Tracy Miller prepared the charts. Kathy Jones finalized all 
illustrations, and Lori Crane, designed the cover. 



Professor Charles J. Herber of George Washington University, who 
directed this work as a dissertation, was a helpful advocate and editor. 
Professors Robert W. Kenny and Peter P. Hill read and commented on 
earlier drafts. Professor J. Kenneth McDonald ably directed my first years 
of study; and one of the finest scholars and gentlemen associated with 
George Washington University, Professor Roderic H. Davidson, made my 
studies in European diplomatic history a joy. Martin Blumenson, historian, 
and Col. John Schlight, USAF (Ret.), former Chief, Southeast Asia Branch, 
Office of the Chief of MiUtary History, U.S. Army, attended my dissertation 
defense and gave useful criticism. 


The Author 

Richard G. Davis received his B.A. from the University of Virginia; 
his M.A. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and his Ph.D. 
from George Washington University. Before joining the U.S. Air Force 
Historical Program in 1980 he worked for the National Archives and Re- 
cords Administration as an archivist specializing in the declassification of 
classified documents. His earlier works include The 31 Initiatives, a study 
on Army/Air Force efforts at cooperation and reform, and Tempering the 
Blade: The Development of American Tactical Air Power in the North Afri- 
can Campaign. Dr. Davis has also published several articles in professional 
journals. He is currently researching the U.S. offensive air campaign in the 
Persian Gulf War of 1991. 



Foreword v 

Introduction vii 

Acknowledgments xi 

Part One. Carrying the Flame 
From West Point to London 

1. SPAATZ'S EARLY CAREER (1891-1938) 3 

Organization and Doctrine of the Prewar Air Corps 
Spaatz' s Association with Arnold and Eaker 

2. PREWAR PLANNING (January 1939-November 1941) 37 

Rearmament of the Air Corps 

Spaatz Observes the Battle of Britain Firsthand 

Spaatz and Prewar Strategic Planning 


(December 1941-November 1942) 67 

Establishing the Autonomy of the Eighth Air Force 
Early Operations 
Spaatz' s Command Style 

The Eighth Air Force and the North African Invasion 

Part Two. Tempering the Blade 
The North African Campaign 
November 8, 1942-May 14, 1943 

4. THE RACE FOR TUNISIA (November 1942-January 1943) 123 

Initial Invasion Operations 

U.S. Air Support Doctrine Before Operation Torch 

Operations in November-December 1942 

5. FAILURE AND REORGANIZATION (January-March 1943) 155 

The Casablanca Conference 

Operations, Personalities, and Teamwork 
Reorganization and the Kasserine Pass 



(February-May 1943) 185 

The Air War Against Axis Supply Lines 
Heavy-Bombardment Aviation in Tunisia 
Ground Operations and Air Support 
Spaatz and Changes in AAF Air Support Doctrine 

Part Three. Mediterranean Interlude 
From Pantelleria to London 
May-December 1943 

7. PANTELLERIA AND SICILY (May-August 1943) 225 


Preinvasion Planning and Air Preparations for Sicily 
Air Power and the Invasion of Sicily 

8. SALERNO AND LONDON (July-December 1943) 255 

The Invasion of Italy 

The Mediterranean Theater and Strategic Bombing 

Part Four. The Point of the Blade 
Strategic Bombing and 
the Cross-Channel Invasion 
January-June 1944 

9. THE LUFTWAFFE ENGAGED (January-February 1944) 287 

Initial Operations 
Leigh-Mallory and the AEAF 
"Big Week" 

The Transportation Plan and Air Command Arrangements 

10. THE LUFTWAFFE DEFEATED (March-April 1944) 341 

Air Command Arrangements for Overlord Are Settled 

The Dispute over Strategic Targeting 


Morale Problems 

The Oil Plan Is Salvaged 


The Oil Plan Is Implemented 

Churchill Delays the Transportation Plan 

Preinvasion Operations 


Part Five. The Mortal Blow 
From Normandy to Berlin 
June 6, 1944-May 9, 1945 

12. SUMMER 1944: 

Crossbow, Thunderclap, AND STRATEGIC BOMBING 
(June-September 1944) 423 

Initial Operations 

Operation Crossbow 

Reprisal Bombing and Thunderclap 

Strategic Bombing in the Summer of 1944 

Problems of the American Strategic Air Forces 

13. SUMMER 1944: 


(July-August 1944) 453 

Initial Attempts at Ground Support 
Operation Cobra 

Later Missions in Support of Ground Operations 


(September 11-December 15, 1944) 483 

The Removal of the Strategic Air Forces from SHAEF's Control 
Strategic Target Selection in the Autumn of 1944 


The Resurgence of the Luftwaffe 
Arnold and the Public Image of the AAF 

15. VICTORY (December 16, 1944-May 9, 1945 531 

The Battle of the Bulge 
Thunderclap and Dresden 

U.S. Bombing Policy during the Winter of 1944-1945 
Operations to the End of the War 


Statistical Appendices 599 

Notes 675 

Glossary 735 

Bibliography 741 

Index 759 


1. Defenses of England and Wales, August 1940 50 

2. Eighth Air Force Installations, August 1942 84 

3. Operation Torch Area 120 

4. Allied and Axis Airfields on the Northern Tunisian Front 129 

5. Eastern Algeria and Northern Tunisia 138 

6. Central and Southern Tunisia 166 

7. Pantelleria 226 

8. Greater German Air Industry Targets 320 

9. Escort Ranges for the P-47 362 

10. Escort Ranges for the P-38 and P-51 363 

1 1 . Greater German Synthetic Oil Plants 397 

12. Normandy Transport Network 407 

13. Operation Crossbow Network 427 

14. Operation Cobra Area, Night of July 24-25, 1944 473 

15. Front Lines, 1944-1945 502 

16. Greater German Transport Network 509 


1. Distribution of Regular Army Rank, 1922-1941 11 

2. Age and Rank of the U.S. Army Officer Corps, 1931 13 

3. Flight Accident Statistics, 1921-1938 15 

4. Eighth and Ninth Air Force Fighter Escort Missions, 1944 364 

5. The Relationship between H2X Bombing Accuracy and Cloud Cover 505 

6. USSTAF Bomber Losses by Quarter, 1944-1945 527 


1. AlUed Chain of Command, January 6, 1943 169 

2. Allied Chain of Command, January 30, 1943 175 

3. Organization of Allied Air Power, February 18, 1943 179 

4. U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, May 1944 291 

5. Chain of Command, Allied Expeditionary Force, February 13, 1944 308 

6. Chain of Command, Allied Expeditionary Force, April 7, 1944 342 

7. System of Control of Strategic Air Force 491 

8. Total German Synthetic Fuel Production, 1940-1945 506 



General Carl A. Spaatz, 1945 frontispiece 

Flight Trainee, 2d Lt. Carl A. Spatz, 1916 2 

Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell and Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick 9 

SelMdge Field, Michigan, early 1930s 18 

Brig. Gen. William Mitchell addressing his court-martial 21 

Maj. Gen. James E. Fechet and the Question Mark's crew 25 

The Question Mark flight, January 1929 26 

Maj. Carl A. "Tooey" Spatz, ca. 1930 34 

Lt. Col. Henry H. Arnold and actress Bebe Daniels 35 

Maj. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Chief, U.S. Army Air Corps 39 

Air Chief Marshal Cyril Newall 43 

Air Commodore John Slessor 46 

Bomb damage to London, autumn 1940 49 

John G. Winant, U.S. Ambassador to Britain 52 

The Battle of Britam 54 

Robert A, Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air 58 

Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker 73 

Brig. Gen. Frank O'D. "Monk" Hunter 73 

Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War 76 

General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army 77 

Air Chief Marshal Sholto Douglas 87 

Air Chief Marshal Charles A. Portal 91 

Majj Gen. Carl A. Spaatz congratulating Maj. Charles C. Kegehnan 92 

Air Chief Marshal Arthur T. "Bomber" Harris 95 

Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Eighth Air Force commanders 99 

The King and Queen of England 100 

Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, 1942 102 

Brig. Gen. James H. Doolittle 126 

Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. N. Anderson 137 

Air Commodore G. M. Lawson ...141 

Air Chief Marshal Arthur W. Tedder 148 

Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham 149 

Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews 156 

Archibald Sinclair, British Secretary of State for Air 159 

General Henry H. Arnold and Ak Chief Marshal Charles A. Portal 164 

Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall 167 

The new Allied leadership, February 1943 180 

Air Marshal William L. Welsh 182 

A light moment in North Africa 188 

The end of two Axis supply ships off Bizerte, Tunisia 192 

German Me 323 and Ju 52 aircraft 194 

After an air raid on Castelvetrona, Sicily 197 


A German Siebel ferry 197 

Generals Spaatz and Patton and Colonel McDonald, Algeria .....205 

Maj. Gen. W. E. Clutterbuck 228 

Rear Adm. R. R. McGrigor 228 

Pantelleria, June 1943 237 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz at the 90th Photo Intelligence Wing 242 

U.S. military leaders near the Fifth Army front, Italy 274 

Maj. Gen. James H. Doolittle at Maison Blanche, Algeria 275 

Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory 284 

Commanders, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe 289 

U.S. military leaders studying Ninth Air Force photos 289 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz on an inspection tour 292 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz meeting his daughter in England 292 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz and his command plane 293 

Maj. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson 295 

Maj. Gen. Earle E. Partridge 295 

Brig. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay 296 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz and his executive officer, Capt. Sally Bagby 297 

Eighth Air Force heavy bombers equipped with H2X radar 299 

Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner 302 

Early model P-47s over England 304 

Filling the pipeline: Replacement B-17s, March 1944 305 

Air Vice-Marshal Harry Broadhurst 311 

Maj. Gen. Frederick L, Anderson conferring with meteorologists 318 

Defenders of the Reich 324 

Bomb damage to Fieseler aircraft plant, Kassel, Germany 331 

An Avro Lancaster 335 

Maj. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg 354 

Brig. Gen. Frederic H. Smith, Jr 354 

Maj. Gen. Adolph Galland 363 

Reich Marshal Hermann Goering 364 

The 91st Bomb Group being briefed prior to a raid 368 

The Eighth Air Force Unleashed 372 

Eighth Air Force heavy bombers hitting the factory area of Berlin 375 

Air Vice-Marshal Richard Peck 380 

Morale visit to a Ninth Air Force medium bomber group 383 

Morale visit marking a bomber group's 100th mission 384 

Morale visit to the 381st Bomb Group 386 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower in the cockpit of a B-26 391 

The first oil raid, Bohlen, Germany, May 1944 , 399 

Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary. 405 

Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet .405 

A "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" strafing sortie 412 

Generals Spaatz and Arnold at Normandy beachhead 425 


Winston Churchill at an antiaircraft gun line, England 429 

Germans preparing to launch a V-1 flying bomb 431 

A German holding an antiaircraft range finder 441 

Germans preparing to fire 88mm antiaircraft artillery 442 

A synthetic oil refinery, Merseburg, Germany 444 

Eighth Air Force ground crews servicing a P-38 447 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz at a crew replacement center, England 451 

RAF Operations Room 456 

General Dempsey and Air Commodore Boyle. 459 

Maj. Gen. Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada 466 

Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery 468 

Aftermath of Operation Cobra, St. L6, France 475 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz at an Eighth Air Force B-24 base 477 

Air Marshal James M. Robb 489 

Air Vice-Marshal Norman H. Bottomley 493 

The Reich Besieged 498 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower and leading groimd commanders 520 

U.S. commanding generals, autumn, 1944 521 

The Battle of the Bulge 534 

Bomb damage to a rail yard near Cologne, Germany 539 

Maj. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter. 547 

Fratricide over Berlin 554 

Cities in Crisis 566 

Ruin and Risk 576 

Generals Spaatz and Doolittle with the 303d Bomb Group 578 

War's End 583 


Statistical Appendices 

1. Aviation Personnel Strength, 1912-1945 601 

2. Direct Cash and Direct Appropriations Expenditures, 1899-1946 603 

3. Combat Groups Overseas, 1941-1945 604 

4. Battle Casualties against Germany, 1941-1945 609 

5. Battle Casualties, ETO, 1941-1945 611 

6. Battle Casualties, MTO, 1941-1945 613 

7. Heavy Bomber and Day Fighter Crew Losses, 1943-1945 615 

8. Aircraft in Theaters against Germany, 1942-1945 618 

9. Aircraft, ETO, 1942-1945 622 

10. Aircraft, MTO, 1942-1945 626 

1 1. Aircraft Losses, 1941-1945 630 

12. Combat Sorties Flown, Europe, 1941-1945 635 

13. Combat Sorties Flown, ETO, 1942-1945 637 

14 Combat Sorties Flown, MTO, 1942-1945 639 

15. Fighter Sorties Flown against Germany, 1943-1945 641 

16. Bombs Dropped against Germany, 1943-1945 643 

17. Tons of Bombs Dropped, 1941-1945 645 

18. Tons of Bombs Dropped on German Targets, 1942-1945 646 

19. Tons of Bombs Dropped by Heavy Bombers on Germany 649 

20. Tons of Bombs Dropped, ETO, 1942-1945 651 

21. Tons of Bombs Dropped, MTO, 1942-1945 653 

22. Combat Losses by Theater, 1942-1945 655 

23. Combat Losses, ETO, 1942-1945 657 

24. Combat Losses, MTO, 1942-1945 659 

25. Enemy Aircraft Destroyed, 1942-1945 661 

26. Enemy Aircraft Destroyed, ETO, 1942-1945 663 

27. Enemy Aircraft Destroyed, MTO, 1942-1945 665 

28. Gasoline Consumption, ETO, 1942-1945 667 

29. Gasoline Consumption, MTO, 1942-1945 669 

30. Expenditures from Direct Appropriations, 1942-1945 671 


Part One 

Carrying the Flame 

From West Point to London 

Flight Trainee 2d Lt. Carl A. Spatz, 25tli Infantry, spring 1916. 

Chapter 1 

Spaatz's Early Career 

The candidate should be naturally athletic and have a reputa- 
tion for reliability, punctuality and honesty. He should have 
a cool head in emergencies, good eye for distance, keen ear 
for familiar sounds, steady hand and sound body with plenty 
of reserve; he should be quick-witted, highly intelligent and 
tractable. Immature, high strung, overconfident, impatient 
candidates are not desired.' 

— Army Specifications for Flyers, 1917 

Carl Andrew Spatz* was bom on June 28, 1891, in Boyertown, Permsylvania, 
and lived there throughout his youth. He was the second child, and first son, in a 
family of two boys and three girls. Both his Prussian immigrant grandfather and 
his American-bom father published the local newspaper, at first in German, later 
in English. As a boy, he learned to set type by hand and to run the paper's print- 
ing press. He graduated from high school at the age of fourteen, a fact that says 
less about his academic abilities than it does about the simplicity of the local 
curriculum. To remedy his academic deficiencies, his parents sent him to 
Perkiomen Preparatory School for two more years. Years later Spaatz classified 
himself as a poor student who read what he wanted and never studied,^ traits he 
continued throughout his life. When his father was badly burned attempting to 
rescue persons trapped in a local opera house fire in January 1908, Carl retumed 
home to run the newspaper. Afterwards he attended the Army-Navy Preparatory 
School in Washington, D.C. On March 1, 1910, at the age of eighteen, he 
entered the United States Military Academy at. West Point. 

* In 1937 Spatz, at the urging of his wife and three daughters, legally changed his name to 
Spaatz. He hoped that the additional "a" would encourage the correct pronunciation of his name, 
which sounded like the word "spots." 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Spaatz himself never revealed why he chose to attend the Academy. His 
attendance at the Army-Navy Preparatory School could have indicated a leaning 
toward the military profession or merely a desire to secure sound credentials 
before attending any college. His wife has said that his family could not afford 
to continue his education. The offer of an excellent free education, coupled with 
an honorable career that stressed the outdoor life he enjoyed all his life probably 
persuaded him to apply for and accept appointment to a service academy.3 

He had an undistinguished sojourn in the Corps of Cadets. Less than three 
weeks after his entrance, he attempted to resign but was dissuaded from doing 
so.^ Why he attempted to resign remains obscure. Given his easy-going temper- 
ament, it seems probable that the hazing and other traditional indignities 
inflicted on entering cadets almost proved too much for him. Later, although 
guilty, he dodged expulsion for having liquor in his room by escaping court- 
martial conviction on a technicality In academics he stood 57th out of 107. In 
conduct, he ranked 95th. His behavioral shortcomings reflected a distaste for 
"bull" or spit and polish. He received demerits for neglecting to sweep the floor, 
to dust his shoes, to fold his bedclothes, and to keep his rifle clean. In fact, 
Spaatz maintained a rumpled look throughout his career. Rumor has it that on 
his graduation day he was still walking punishment tours. 

He never gained cadet rank, remaining a "cleansleeve" for his four years at 
the Point. What interested him — bridge, poker, and the guitar — ^he pursued vig- 
orously. His classmates especially relished his repertoire of risque songs. The 
Howitzer, the West Point yearbook, caricatured him with guitar in hand. The 
editors commented on his silent demeanor, noted his ability to recite with confi- 
dence on a subject he had not read, and spoke of his indifference to demerits and 
"independent attitude generally."^ By his graduation on June 12, 1914, his inde- 
pendence, taciturnity, and impatience with stultifying routine had become fixed. 
He had also acquired a permanent nickname, "Tooey," because of a chance 
resemblance to upperclassman, Francis J. Toohey. 

Spaatz left the Academy determined to become a flyer. In his third month at 
West Point, on May 29, 1910, he had seen Glenn Curtiss fly by on a 150-mile 
trip from Albany to New York City. (Curtiss stopped only once to refuel, 
thereby setting a new world record of 87 miles nonstop flight.)^ The sight so 
impressed Spaatz that he then and there decided to fly.^ In 1914 the U.S. Army's 
few aircraft belonged to the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. Before Spaatz 
could join the Signal Corps he was required to serve one year in a line or combat 

On joining the 25th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, he 
served in an all-black infantry company. Thirty years later, he testified to the 
Gillem Board, which was investigating the place of the black soldier in the post- 
World War II armed forces, "I must say that I enjoyed that year of service with 

that outfit as much as any year of service I have ever had — as a white officer in a 
Negro outfit, I would just as soon serve with them any time." He thought his 


Early Career 

men made "fine soldiers easily disciplined by white officers and easily kept 
under control." He also told the Gillem Board that blacks should not serve in 
integrated units and that they would be more effective in support and service 
units than in combat units.^ Throughout his career Spaatz evinced the paternalis- 
tic attitude of his rank and station toward blacks. He never appeared to question 
their low status within the military; he was simply a man of his time. 

Spaatz made no lasting mark on the 25th Infantry, but he did succeed in 
making an indelible impression on the teen-aged daughter of a cavalry colonel 
also stationed in Hawaii. She became his bride two years later. 

When his year in the infantry ended, Spaatz reported to North Field in San 
Diego, California, on November 25, 1915, to begin flight training. This prepara- 
tion consisted of two to five hours' dual instruction, learning how to inspect the 
plane for safety, and how to disassemble its motor. On his first solo flight, the 
engine quit,'^ but he glided the plane to a safe landing and continued to fly. In 
his initial air assignment. May 1916, Spaatz flew to the U.S.-Mexican border for 
a tour of duty in the 1st Aero Squadron with Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing's puni- 
tive expedition in Mexico. The commanding officer of the 1st Aero Squadron, 
Capt. Benjamin D. Foulois, later became Chief of the Army Air Corps. A month 
after U.S. entry into World War I, Spaatz, one of only sixty-five flying officers 
in the Army, was promoted to major and given command of the 5th Aero 
Squadron at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. On July 26, two weeks before his 
departure for Europe, he married twenty-year-old Ruth Harrison, whose father 
had also been transferred to Fort Sam Houston. The couple gave the bride's par- 
ents less than twelve hours' notice. 

By September 19, 1917, Spaatz found himself in France, where his unit was 
broken up for replacements. He spent the next three weeks in Paris in charge 
of the mechanical training of enlisted men, followed by a month at Chaumont 
assigned to the Supply Section of the aeronautical area of Pershing's headquar- 
ters. While at Chaumont, Spaatz participated in his first combat mission, flying 
as an observer on a French bombardment sortie on the night of October 29. He 
also flew with French observation and reconnaissance squadrons. 'i On Novem- 
ber 15, 1917, he became the Commander of the 3d Aviation Instruction Center 
at Issoudun, France. He received this posting because as both a Regular Army 
officer and a trained flyer, he was one of the very few men qualified to fill the 

There were no planes suitable for advanced training or pilots qualified as 
instructors in the United States at the outbreak of the war. The Aviation Section 
of General Pershing's American Expeditionary Force (AEF) thus had no cbsme 
but to establish large training centers in Europe, where pilots could practice fly- 
ing on up-to-date aircraft supplied by the French and the English. Although the 
Aeronautical Training Section of the AEF, Aviation Section, selected Issoudion 
in June, construction on flight training facilities did not begin until August 18. 
By autumn conditions there, thanks to delays in the arrival of construction mate- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

rials, were, as an official report noted, "to say the least, disheartening." 13 The 
center did not receive its first French aircraft until October, and the provisional 
flight school did not start operation until October 24. Barracks and shops were 
of the crudest construction, and the rainy season had started before roads were in 
place, making the center a sea of mud. On the flying field, mud churned up by 
aircraft wheels broke propeller blades as fast as they could be replaced. The cen- 
ter had no machine shops or material to erect them. 14 

The morale of all personnel under these conditions plummeted. Primary 
training cadets, who had joined the Army Air Service for the romance of flying, 
particularly resented their lot at Issoudun, which had no facilities for primary or 
introductory flight training. The center had to accept the primary cadets because 
the French and British initial training schools could not find space for them. 
When pressed into laboring on the center's essential construction projects, they 
reacted with little enthusiasm. This was the initial situation that confronted 
Spaatz, who had no training in aviation instruction and had never flown a mod- 
em sei"vice plane. 

He spent most of the next nine and one-half months either as commanding 
officer of the school or as the officer in charge of training. Spaatz did his job 
well. By the time he left in September 1918, Issoudun had become the largest 
training field in the world and the Army Air Service's chief facility for training 
pursuit or fighter pilots. It had 14 airfields, 84 hangars, and numerous ware- 
houses, shops, and barracks. The machine shops could completely overhaul 
more than 100 engines a week (each requiring at least 100 man-hours) and 
rebuild from salvaged parts 20 aircraft a week (each plane required 32 man- 
days). The school averaged 500 to 600 flying hours a day. In all, it graduated 
766 pursuit pilots. This accomplishment was not without cost; Issoudun suf- 
fered .56 training fatalities during Spaatz's tenure. In August 1918, for example, 
17 students died.l^ In all, the Army Air Service suffered 128 combat fatalities 
and 244 training fatalities in France and 262 training fatalities in the United 
States.'^ Spaatz also reestablished discipline. One of his trainees recalled fifty 
years later, "The students all thought he was a stiff necked little German," 
adding, "but he was fair, and that's all you can expect out of a good officer."20 

The assignment gave Spaatz invaluable experience as a trainer and adminis- 
trator of a fledgling air force. He had successfully accomplished his assign- 
ment — so successfully, in fact, that Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, one of 
Pershing's chief aviation officers, wanted to return him to the United States to 
upgrade Air Service training there. Instead, Spaatz, not known for his loqua- 
ciousness, spoke up. He wangled permission for two weeks at the front with the 
1st Pursuit Group, which included the 94th Aero (Hat-in-the-Ring) Squadron, 
one of whose members was Maj. Edward "Eddie" V. Rickenbacker. 
Rickenbacker, who ended the war as the highest-ranking American ace, with 
twenty-six kills, had served at Issoudun under Spaatz for several months. 

When Spaatz arrived, he found the 1st Pursuit out of the line and not flying 


Early Career 

combat missions, so he went on to the 13th Aero Squadron, 2nd Pursuit Group .^l 
Upon his arrival, Spaatz won over the outfit's pilots, mostly second and first 
lieutenants who had first entered combat five weeks before his arrival, by 
removing his major's insignia of rank and becoming one of them.22 When his 
first two weeks were up, he ignored his orders and stayed two more weeks.23 

On September 16, 1918, despite the repeated jamming of his machine guns, 
Spaatz shot down his first German aircraft.^"* Ten days later, he earned a 
Distinguished Service Cross in a stunt that made the New York Times: "Hying 
officer shoots down three planes — two German and his own."25 Spaatz had 
focused so intently on his dogfighting that he had neglected to check his fuel 
gauge, causing the loss of his own Spad. Fortunately, when he crash-landed his 
plane near the trenches, he fell into French hands. The friendly poilu started an 
alcoholic celebration, which Spaatz 's compatriots continued upon his return to 
base. When Spaatz left for the United States, Mitchell told him, "I will be glad 
to have you command a group at any time under my command."^^ 

Spaatz landed in New York City on October 13. He traveled to Washington, 
D.C., where he was assigned to the Aviation Service's Training Department as 
Inspector of Pursuit Training and met Col. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold for the first 
time. The two eventually became fast friends — to the lasting benefit of both 
their careers. Spaatz had already heard much about Arnold, who was very close 
to Spaatz's wife's family, the Harrisons. Next, Spaatz began an inspection tour 
of pursuit facilities. He boarded a train for Dayton, Ohio, where he tested vari- 
ous types of planes, presumably trainers. Just outside El Paso, on November 11, 
1918, he learned that the war had ended. The next day he finished his tour in San 
Diego, California. He emerged from the war as a recognized expert on air train- 
ing and pursuit aviation.^? 

He also emerged convinced that Army air power deserved more autonomy. 
By the end of World War I, many air officers, such as Mitchell and Foulois, had 
become dissatisfied with the place of aviation in the Army. They had encoun- 
tered too many officers who had gained command of air units without the least 
knowledge of aviation or who, worse still, had no appreciation of aviation's 
potential.28 Other officers, such as Arnold, had found little sympathy or support 
from War Department bureaucrats in Washington.^? Nor did Secretary of War 
Newton D. Baker demonstrate remarkable insight in his Annual Report of 1919, 
which condemned the principle of bombing civilian areas,30 and by extension, 
all strategic bombing. At the time of the postwar congressional hearings on the 
place of air power within the military establishment, Spaatz said, "My own feel- 
ing was all in favor of getting it out of the Signal Corps. ... I wanted air force 
on the same level as infantry. "^^ Within a few years, Spaatz and many other 
Army air officers wanted not just autonomy within the Army but independence 
from it. 

In 1919 Spaatz began the typical treadmill existence of an American officer 
between the world wars — repeated changes of post, lack of public regard, low 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

pay, and agonizingly slow promotion. Although from 1918 to 1920 he changed 
posts twenty times,^^ jjg had two advantages over some of his fellow officers — 
flight pay, a cause of much jealousy among non-flying officers, and seniority as 
a major. For all but three months of the next seventeen years, when he temporar- 
ily became a captain, Spaatz remained a major, unlike many of his compatriots 
who lost their wartime ranks and toiled for years as captains or even lieutenants. 

The U.S. Army filled its officer ranks by means of an unmodified seniority 
system. A thorough knowledge of the workings of the Army promotion system 
provides a key to understanding the position of the Air Service and of Spaatz 
within the Army.* The promotion hst, a conservative personnel system long in 
use throughout the world's civil and military services, worked strictly by senior- 
ity or time in grade. Unlike many foreign services, which limited the unmodified 
seniority hst to captain and below, the U.S. Army's system extended up through 
colonel.33 Each commissioned officer entered the U.S. Army officer corps as the 
most junior 2d lieutenant and, if he lived long enough, advanced to colonel as 
the men on the list ahead of him left the service. Considerations of merit or abil- 
ity did not modify one's relative position on the list, and there was no selection 
scheme to advance deserving and active officers over the heads of the superan- 
nuated. The system provided for voluntary retirement at thirty years of service 
and mandatory retirement at age sixty-four. The list did not apply to general 
officers' promotions, which were by selection. 

Strict adherence to the promotion list had the advantage of allowing every 
officer to know his promotion prospects precisely and gave assurance that there 
could be no favoritism or nepotism. In practice, of course, the choice assign- 
ments still went to the favorites who had the rank to qualify for them. The disad- 
vantages of the system included lack of reward for initiative and ability, slow 
promotion, and bureaucratic routine. 

Before World War I, each branch within the U.S. Army (such as cavahy, 
infantry, artillery, and quartermaster) had maintained its own separate promotion 
list, so some officers were promoted faster than others of equal ability and time 
of service. To remedy this perceived flaw. Congress, in the National Defense 
Act of 1920, combined all Regular Army promotion lists into a single list, pro- 
viding that no officer would hold a relative position on the combined list lower 
than the one he held on his branch list at the time of the bill's passage. In the 
same act Congress established the Air Service as a separate branch within the 
Army; specified that at all times 90 percent of its officers must be rated flyers, 
balloonists, or observers; and required that all command positions be filled by 
rated officers. 

* The air branch of the U.S. Army underwent three name changes from 1919 to 1941: 
from 1919 through the first half of 1926 it was officially the Army Air Service; from July 1926 
through June 1941 it was the Army Air Corps; and from June 1941 to September 1947 it was 
the Army Air Forces. 


Early Career 

These provisions created a closed shop. Officers elsewhere in the Army 
could not transfer into the Air Service unless they passed flight training. Such a 
switch proved difficult for field-grade officers (major and above). Their age 
(mid-thirties, at best) and the extremely high physical standards for pilots almost 
guaranteed failure to gain a rating. Hence accretions to the Air Service's and Air 
Corps' Regular Army officer ranks came, for the most part, at the 2d lieutenant 
grade, from West Point graduates and from Reserve Officers, Flying Cadtets, and 
enlisted pilots earning regular commissions. 

So stringent were the air branch's physical standards that only tiie finest 
specimens entered its training programs. Men who flew in open, unheated cock- 
pits at altitudes well over 10,000 feet at all times of the year, without oxygen, in 
aircraft lacking most types of power-assisted controls required extraordinary 
stamina. The air branch's basic and advanced flight training eliminated a large 
percentage of would-be pilots. On the average, about 40 percent of each entering 
class completed both stages of training, although in some classes as few as 25 
percent graduated. Charles A. Lindbergh, who underwent flight training in 1924, 
recalled that only 17 of 103 members of his class completed training, and the 
Air Corps passed only 128 of 592 students in fiscal 1928. Moreover, from 
1921 to 1938, 95 flying cadets died in air accidents.35 

Because the Air Service (and its predecessors) had existed only since 1907, 
it had had no time to develop its own higher-ranking officers. Even Hap Arnold, 

M^. Gen. Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, and Brig. Gen. William "Billy" 
Mitchell, early 1920s. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

one of the very first Army pilots, was only a major and barely in the upper 40 
percent of the major's ranks of the promotion list. In July 1923, Arnold was the 
fifteenth-ranking major in the Air Service but only 909th of 2,250 majors in the 
entire Army. At the same time Spaatz was the 88th ranking major (of 89) in the 
Air Service and stood 2,207 on the majors list. It took Arnold almost nine years 
to reach lieutenant colonel (February 1932) and Spaatz more than twelve years 
(September 1935) to advance through the entire major's portion of the list to 
lieutenant colonel. 

The Army's air branch had a much lower percentage of field-grade officers 
than the remainder of the Army. (See Table 1, Distribution of Regular Army 
Rank in the Air Service and Air Corps Compared with the Army as a Whole 
1922-1941.) From 1923 to 1935, the Air Corps had an average of less than 11 
percent of its Regular Army officers in field grades. The remainder of the Army 
averaged a little less than 33 percent field-grade officers for the same period. 
This imbalance resulted in underrepresentation of the Air Corps' views and lack 
of understanding of the Air Corps' difficulties at the senior levels of the Army. 
But if the lack of field-grade officers hurt the Air Corps as an institution within 
the Army, in the long run it may have advanced the careers of officers within the 
Air Corps itself 3^ 

The lack of rank within the Air Corps — even within the field grades the 
great majority of officers were majors — meant that officers assumed responsibil- 
ity and gained experience at levels far above their actual rank. The 1930 Annual 
Report of the Chief of the Air Corps noted that Air Corps Tables of Organization 
called for a major to command each squadron. Yet, of 53 squadrons, majors led 
only 5, and 4 of those majors doubled as base commanders. One squadron was 
led by a second lieutenant of less than four years' service.^^ From 1921 to 1938, 
if not beyond, the same 75 to 90 field-grade officers, many of whom became 
AAF generals in World War II, controlled the inner workings of the air arm. 
Spaatz, who served as a major for most of the period between 1921 and 1938, 
was always one of the 100 most senior officers in his branch. In an institution in 
which considerations of rank and seniority dominated personnel assignments, 
Spaatz 's seniority kept him constantly in important command and staff posi- 

If the Air Corps had a paucity of field grade officers, it had an overabundance 
of junior officers (captain and below), partly by design. In the early 1920s, Ak 
Service thinking estimated a pilot's active flying career at eight years under 
wartime conditions and, at most, fourteen years under peacetime conditions.38 
Because the air branch insisted on officer pilots, it required only first and second 
lieutenants to operate individual aircraft, with captains to command flights. Once a 
man's flying career ceased, about the time he might expect to become a major, he 
could be transferred, sent to the reserves, or discharged. The operation of aircraft 
by officer pilots necessitated a force heavy in junior officers. In 1924 the Air 
Service used a figure of 85 percent captains and Ueutenants as the optimum,^^ not 


Early Career 

Table 1 

Distribution of Regular Army Rank in the Air Service and 
Air Corps Compared with the Army as a Whole, 1922-1941 

1 citr 


111 1 1 












1 1/682 











5 1 6/2 764 








510/2 695 


913/11 712 





127/4 148 

502/2 688 


884/1 1 612 





126/4 140 


919/11 748 

7 J. 7/ X A f f TU 

















































































































a. The Dickman Board demoted 236 majors, 750 captains, and 800 first lieutenants by 
January 1, 1923. 

b. The Promotion Act of 1935 shifted the World War I "hump" one rank higher from first 
and second lieutenant to first lieutenant and captain. 

Compiled from the Official Reports of the Secretary of War. 

far from the 90 percent average of 1923 to 1935. Throughout the interwar period 
the air branch supplemented its number of officer pilots by using reserve officers; 
for most years the air branch had by far the largest number of reservists on duty 
for periods exceeding fifteen days of any branch .^^ In practice the single promo- 
tion list thwarted the expectations of the Air Service and the Air Corps. 

Instead of an even distribution of officers with like times of service through- 
out, the list had instances of many individuals crammed into a small time-of-ser- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

vice bracket. Officers who joined the Army in World War I formed one such 
logjam. At the rear of that jam was what the air officers called the promotion 
"hump." When men joined the Army at the beginning of the war, those wishing 
to fly went to flight training, in some cases for twelve to eighteen months. The 
flyers received their commissions only after they had completed flight training. 
They were thus well behind the men who joined other branches and earned their 
commissions months earlier. In the interwar period this placed a large percent- 
age of Air Corps junior-grade officers at the bottom of the promotion list, with 
little prospect of ever reaching field grade. Tn 1 930, 400 of the 494 Regular 
Army first lieutenants in the Air Corps had wartime experience.^! The most 
senior of them would have to advance 3,800 places through the captains' ranks 
and one-third of the way through the entire list to reach major — a daunting 
prospect. The effect on the entering second lieutenants, who could not even 
make captain until the hump cleared, also must have been dramatic. The limited 
promotion potential coupled with the lack of personnel turnover contributed to 
the aging of the small officer corps. (Table 2 for the year 1931, the mid-point 
between the wars, illustrates the interwar relation between age and rank.) It was 
no wonder that the bulk of resignations from the whole officer corps, not just the 
air branch, consisted of junior-grade officers. From 1924 through 1933, 3 
colonels, 8 lieutenant colonels, 81 majors, 239 captains, 231 first lieutenants, 
and 391 second lieutenants resigned from the Regular Army, an average of 95 a 
year from a force of approximately 12,000.^^ As always, those with the least 
invested in the service and the worst prospects of advancement were most likely 
to resign. Well over 90 percent of the officer corps chose to stay with the colors. 

The officer corps as a whole formed a conservative, all-white society removed 
from the mainstream of American life. Postings to isolated forts and bases, lives 
spent in the military ghetto of officers' on-base housing, a promotion policy of 
glacial slowness, and a professional ethos that led to concentration on the techni- 
cal aspects of their work and to the avoidance of participation in the partisan 
civilian world accounted for much of the Regular Army officers' segregation. 
The officers of the Air Service and Corps formed a small band of brothers set 
apart even from the officer corps at large.* They numbered no larger than the 
student body of a medium-size urban high school and they spent much of their 
careers in small groups of a few dozen or less on primitive airfields. Their agita- 

* Regular officers left the air branch by three routes: death, resignation, or retirement. Only a sta- 
tistically insignificant number of them were dismissed or discharged. From 1925 through 1935, 131 
regular officers died in air crashes, 35 died of other causes, 126 resigned, and 72 retired. At the same 
time, the air branch grew from 913 regular officers to 1,303. As one would expect, retirements were 
concentrated in the years after 1928 (70 of 72), as senior officers who joined the service at the time of 
the Spanish-American War and later reached retirement age departed. Resignations peaked in 1930, 
with 27, as the junior officers resigned to join the newly established commercial airlines, and trailed 
off drastically during the Depression; only 16 regular officers resigned from 1931 to 1935. Figures 
were compiled from the Aimual Reports of the Chief of the Air Corps, 1921-1935. 


Table 2 

Age and Rank of the U.S. Army Officer Corps, 1931 

Mai (wfin 

Rriff Gen 


Lt Col 



1st Lt 

2d Lt 
























































. 7 














































































































































































































Extracted from the July 1, 1931 Army List and Directory. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

tion for a separate promotion list,^^ the flight or danger pay they earned while on 
flying status (which many in the rest of the Army resented), and the fight 
between the air arm and the rest of the service over the air portion of the budget 
set the air arm apart from the Army as a whole. Although the leading cause of 
accidental death* for the entire Army from 1927 to 1936 was automobile acci- 
dents (660), the second leading cause of death was airplane accidents (459)'*^ — 
a category confined to only one branch of the service. (See Table 3, Flight 
Accident Statistics, 1921-1938.) This danger exclusively to themselves, their 
low positions on the promotion list, and their mutual participation in an exhila- 
rating, yet highly technical, occupation bound the air officers together. 

Understandably the division of the budget and other service resources cre- 
ated some of the fiercest tension in the Army. From 1920 to 1934, the total cost 
of Army aviation ranged between 13.1 and 22.7 percent of the Army budget, 
averaging 18.2 percent a year. This included not only direct appropriations to the 
air arm but also indirect expenses such as pay, quartermaster and medical ser- 
vices, ordnance, subsistence, construction, and issue of supplies from the war 
reserve from other Army accounts.^^ Such expenses in an era of unremitting fis- 
cal belt-tightening created bitterness within the rest of the Army as the finan- 
cially conservative Coolidge administration, the Depression-ridden Hoover 
administration, and the first Roosevelt administration sought to reduce War 
Department expenditures without regard to military capability .^^ 

Spaatz's life in the interwar years was not uneventful. In 1919 he led the Far 
West Flying Circus in mock dogfighting and stunting exhibitions as part of the 
Air Service's contribution to the Liberty Loan drive. In December of that year, he 
received a letter of commendation for his achievements in the Transcontinental 
Reliability Endurance Flight. Spaatz won elapsed time west to east, finished third 
west to east all types, and won second place west to east DH-4 class.^^ Colonel 
(ex-Brig. Gen.) Mitchell, now head of the Air Service's Training and Operations 
Group, had organized the flight of about eighty service aircraft as a promotional 
effort to generate public enthusiasm for aviation.^^ By October 1919, Spaatz had 
already, in the course of his career, amassed 6(K) hours of flight time; checked 
out in eighteen types of French, British, and American aircraft (including the 
treacherous Morane monoplane); and crashed five times.^^ 

In April 1919, Spaatz became one of only six men to ever receive the rating 
of Military Aviator on the grounds of distinguished service.^*' Before World War 
I, Congress had authorized the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps to 
award Junior Military Aviator and Military Aviator ratings for piloting skill; the 
ratings carried temporary increases in rank and pay. Spaatz himself had qualified 
as a Junior Military Aviator. Congress discontinued the ratings in 1916 but 
allowed their retention by those who had earned them. During the war. Congress 

Fatalities resulting from illness were the leading cause of all deaths for the officer corps. 


Table 3 

Flight Accident Statistics, 1921-1938 

1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 


\,l nil nvvlUcllls 

Aircraft hours (1,000s) 




















iNuniDcr oi acciucnis 



















1 <8 


Number of fatal accidents 




















Number of fatalities 




















Number of injured 




















Details of Fatalities 

Regular Army, officers 




















Regular Army, enlisted men 




















Regular Army, flying cadets 




















Reserve Corps, officers 








































Accident Rates (per 1,000 flying hours) 






































0.70 0.63 


Coi^iled from the Official Reports of the Chief of the Aimy Air Sendee Coips. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

reinstated the award of ratings but for distinguished service instead of skill in 
aviation. Aside from the honor, the rating entitled Spaatz to a flight pay of 75 
percent of base pay, an emolument he continued to draw even after the National 
Defense Act of 1920 limited all flight pay, except for distinguished Military 
Aviators, to 50 percent. This benefit loomed even larger when Congress passed 
the Pay Classification Act of 1922, compressing the differences between pay for 
rank and emphasizing longevity of service. Under the new act Spaatz 's base pay, 
for a major with less than 23 years' service, was $2,400 per annum. 

Throughout the period between the two world wars, Spaatz probably earned 
more per year than any other nongeneral officer in the Army. The family appar- 
ently lived comfortably with little left over from day-to-day expenses. In 1925, 
in planning for his expected retirement with thirty years' service in 1940, Spaatz 
bemoaned his financial status, saying, "I have $300 in the bank and owe about 
$2,000."5l His finances continued to do no better until very late in his career. 
Nonetheless, the extra money certainly gave him the advantage of relative peace 
of mind and the comfort of a lifestyle unavailable to many of his peers. It may 
well have allowed him to concentrate on his profession without the distraction of 

In 1921 Spaatz and Arnold, who had sealed their friendship during a mutual 
tour of duty in California, served up a wacky public relations ploy. They per- 
suaded the chef of a San Francisco hotel to prepare the first egg to be laid and 
fried in flight. On the day of the great Egg Festival at Petaluma, the chicken cap- 
ital of California, Tooey and the chef added a prize hen to the crew and headed 
back for the bay area. They arrived sans poulet — the hen jumped ship at several 
hundred feet and dived into San Francisco Bay. But the flight did not exactly lay 
an egg; the chef threw a bash to celebrate his own safe arrival while the newspa- 
pers carried the story .52 

From 1922 to 1924, Spaatz commanded the 1st Pursuit Group — the only 
pursuit group in the Air Service — at Selfridge Field in Michigan, just outside 
Detroit. By June 1922, the nation's military aviation had shrunk to a force of 
fewer than 10,000 officers and enlisted men.^^ At Selfridge, he earned a repri- 
mand for neglect of duty. One of Spaatz's great qualities as a leader was his 
ability to delegate authority and to allow his subordinates to do their jobs with 
minimum interference from above. This time the trait backfired: his finance offi- 
cer, 1st Lt. Howard Farmer, embezzled $15,000. A court-martial sent Farmer to 
prison, and a review of its findings led to an official reprimand for Spaatz, who, 
aware of Farmer's weakness for drinking and gambling, should have removed 
him from temptation. Instead, he had accepted the officer's pledge not to gamble 
while entrusted with government funds.^^ Although Spaatz was very upset af the 
deserved reprimand, it was a measure of his force of character that he did not 
overcompensate by too closely circumscribing the actions of future subordi- 

During his stay at Selfridge Field, Spaatz cemented his relationship with the 


Early Career 

Assistant Chief of the Army Air Service, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, who regarded 
the 1st Pursuit Group as his favorite organization.^^ After an inspection trip in 
August 1922, Mitchell remarked, "I have had the First Pursuit Group in the air 
every day that I have been here. Their work is extremely satisfactory." He 
added, "I don't think we could have a better Commanding Officer of the 
Group. During the course of these seignorial visits, Mitchell invariably 
expected Spaatz to procure a powerful motor car, usually from Rickenbacker 
Motor Corporation, for his personal use. On one occasion Mitchell shipped six 
of his own horses to Detroit, asking Spaatz to find a government veterinarian, 
forage, and men to fix up some stables.^^ Within three days Spaatz had fulfilled 
the general's request.^^ 

In the course of his many trips to Selfridge, Mitchell, one of the most ardent 
air power enthusiasts, took pains to imprint his views on Spaatz. Although 
Mitchell predicted that bombardment aviation would someday have its principal 
value in "hitting an enemy's great nerve centers," he gave primacy of place to 
pursuit aviation.60 Mitchell believed that gaining air superiority over the enemy 
air force was the first and the most necessary task of the air arm. Without free- 
dom to operate, air could not perform any of its other missions or deny enemy 
air the ability to conduct its own missions. Mitchell emphasized that friendly 
pursuit aircraft must locate the enemy, concentrate against him, and drive him 
from the sky. Only then could friendly air proceed with the bombardment of 
enemy forces and installations.^^ 

In accordance with these theories and others developed from World War I 
experience, the Air Service organized three types of combat units: pursuit, bom- 
bardment, and attack. Pursuit had counterair and ground-strafing roles. 
Bombardment would attack naval vessels and enemy industrial centers and other 
key areas behind enemy lines and assist in attacks against field targets. Official 
manuals, which were approved by the ground officers who dominated the War 
Department General Staff, paid little attention to the planning or conduct of 
strategic bombing. Instead, they concentrated on bombardment's role in ground 
operations. Attack aviation would conduct low-level attacks with heavy machine 
guns, caimon, and bombs against battlefield targets. Airmen who believed such 
low-level attacks would expend both men and machines to little purpose were 
overruled by groimd officers who valued front-line morale-boosting missions 
against immediate tactical targets.^^ 

Spaatz took Mitchell's theories to heart. In February 1922, he wrote to the 
Chief of the Air Service that he conceived of four distinct types of pursuit mis- 
sions — offensive, defensive, night, and attack — each requiring a plane of differ- 
ent design.^3 As commander of the only pursuit group, he participated in the 
writing of several pursuit training and tactical manuals, including overall pursuit 
aviation training regulations, as well as regulations for the pursuit pilot, squadron, 
group, and wing.^^ In only one case did Spaatz envisage the employment of pur- 
suit in an exclusively defensive role. "The first bomb dropped by an enemy on 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

A snow-covered ramp at Sel&idge Field filled with Boeing and Curtiss pursuits. 
Frozen Lake Micliigan appears in the bacliground, early 1930s. 

one of our cities," he stated, "will cause such a clamor that no executive would 
be strong enough to withstand it." Spaatz noted, however, that defensive pur- 
suit would be anything but defensive once airborne.^^ when asked to com- 
ment on the attack aviation manuals, Spaatz indicated that "pursuit forces 
should not accompany the attack forces in the manner of an escort but should 
be concentrated over the objective of the attack at the time the attack forces 
arrive to deliver the attack." Spaatz added, "The attack forces must be pre- 
pared to disperse a small force of the enemy pursuit which may molest them 
on their way to and from the objective."^^ It is important not to make too 
much of the influence of this early thinking on his subsequent actions, but it 
seems that Spaatz was at least predisposed to accept a doctrine that called for 
loose escort of bombers by fighters and aggressive employment of fighter air- 
craft at all times. 

While serving in Michigan, Spaatz had his first encounter with "drop tanks," 
jettisonable aviation fuel tanks carried externally by fighter aircraft. He ob- 
served, "This arrangement, of course, permits pursuit to penetrate to much 
greater depth without destroying its characteristics."^'' Here was part of the solu- 
tion to the long-range fighter-escort problem that would plague Spaatz and other 
bomber commanders twenty years later. Spaatz had recognized one piece of the 
long-range escort puzzle, but, like most other Air Corps officers, he was unable 
to fit that piece into place, to fully realize that drop tanks would give an aircraft 
of fighter performance a bomber's range. 

Spaatz left the 1st Pursuit Group in 1924 to attend his branch of service's 


Early Career 

professional school, the Air Service Tactical School at Langley Field, near 
Norfolk, Virginia, where he had time for reflection — especially when he was 
hospitalized for a neck abscess that almost led to blood poisoning. While at 
Langley, he kept a diary, a practice he would not resume until he went to 
England in May 1940. Spaatz, in an introspective mood, attributed the death of 
one of his classmates in an air accident in part to reflexes slowed by age. Thirty- 
three years old at the time, he himself had just had a close call and wondered 
whether his own skills were slipping.^^ In one of the few personally revealing 
notes in his papers, he analyzed himself as follows: 


1 . Tendency to false illusion that nothing is worth-while except that done 
by myself. 

2. Tendency to be opinionated without sufficient knowledge. 

3. Mental laziness . . . resulting in ability to group quickly certain things 
but with no retentiveness, also resulting in inability to form definite conclusions 
and pursue consistent line of thought. 

4. Tendency to assume everyone acts with right motives hence no effort to 
differentiate between men to separate those whose mental makeup prevent[s] 
their acting with right motives as in case of Farmer [the erring finance officer]. 

5. Egotism which impels me to make authoritative statements on subjects 
or about things with which I am unfamiliar or only vaguely informed. 

6. Tendency to trust instinct rather than make effort to employ reason. 

7. Shyness induced by egotism (hating to admit lack of knowledge), mental 

This gloomy self-evaluation accurately highlighted several aspects of Spaatz 's 
personality. He had a quick mind but he was not an air power intellectual or 
philosopher. He relied on instinct and intuition rather than on systematic 
thought. Nor did he have any illusions regarding his depth of knowledge on 
most subjects; throughout most of his career he displayed no great interest, 
knowledge, or sympathy with affairs other than those directly affecting aviation. 
Finally, he admitted his "shyness," which manifested itself in a painfully 
wooden manner in staff conferences or formal briefings requiring a rapid inter- 
change of ideas. 

Before graduating from the Tactical School in June 1925, Spaatz traveled to 
Washington, D.C., to attend the hearings of the House Military Affairs Committee 
on the Curry Bill for a "separate Air Service." A month later he gave testimony 
to the Lampert Committee of the House of Representatives which was investi- 
gating U.S. aviation. After stating that he personally knew 60 to 70 percent of 
the Army's flyers, Spaatz gave his views on the place of aviation in the U.S. 
military: "The general feeling is that under present conditions we are not getting 
anywhere." He went on to express his feeling that, as a new medium of combat, 
the Air Service required its own unique regulations, training doctrines, and 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

methods of conducting warfare. He objected to the then current arrangements 
under which "we follow the doctrines laid down by the Army for their opera- 
tions so far as the Army is concerned." He added that "any work we may do is 
based on the effect it has on the Army's operations. ... No well-defined policy 
of independent operations by an air force acting independently of the Army is 
being developed under present conditions." Finally, he noted the prevalent opin- 
ion within the Air Service that the next war would start in the air and that if it 
were to do so soon, "this country is absolutely defenseless."^^ 

After Langley, Spaatz was posted to Washington, D.C., as Assistant G-3 for 
Training and Operations in the Office of the Chief of the Air Service. Arnold 
occupied the office next door. Spaatz's four-year stay in Washington opened 
with the controversial court-martial of his old commanding officer, Billy Mitchell, 
during October and November 1925, in which Spaatz and Arnold loyally sup- 
ported Mitchell. Spaatz participated in the ensuing cause ceUbre as one of the 
first defense witnesses, testifying about the current strength of the Air Service. 
In his judgment, 1,300 of the 1,800 planes available were obsolete and only 400 
were "standard." Of those 400, more than half were of World War I vintage; fur- 
thermore, only 26 of them were bombers and only 39 were observation planes. 
Spaatz noted that the U.S. Air Service had only 59 modem planes fit for duty. 
"By dragging all administrative officers from their desks," Spaatz said that he 
could put 15 pursuit planes into the air, adding, "It is very disheartening to 
attempt to train or do work under such circumstances."^^ In a key exchange, the 
defense counsel asked Spaatz if he thought the War Department was slowing the 
development of air power. The prosecutor objected that the question called for a 
conclusion on the part of the witness, but in the accompanying hubbub, Spaatz 
replied, "I do." 

The defense counsel pressed, "Would the recommendation made by Colonel 
Mitchell have improved the Air Service in the technical and other divisions?" 
The prosecutor objected, and Spaatz was forbidden to say whether flyers were 
sufficiently trained in gunnery to fight a war. Members of the court also ques- 
tioned Spaatz. One particularly sharp exchange took place between Spaatz and 
the president of the court, sixty-one-year-old Maj. Gen. Robert L. Howze. 
Howze, an old Indian fighter who had earned a Congressional Medal of Honor 
fighting the Sioux after Wounded Knee (the award of the medal was announced 
the day the court-martial opened) and had commanded a division in France, 
asked who was to blame for any shortcomings. Spaatz replied that, where gun- 
nery was involved, the squadron commanders were at fault. Howze continued, 
"Is there anybody higher up than the commander of this unit who is responsible 
for the gunnery work?" Spaatz responded, "Well, in the case of the First Pursuit 
Group [his old command], the commander of the VI Corps Area has charge of 
it." Spaatz's pointed rejoinder drew the blood of the VI Corps Area Commander, 
who happened to be a member of the court. 

Maj. Gen. William S. Graves, leader of the U.S. Expeditionary Force in 


Early Career 

Brig. Gen. William Mitchell addressing his court-martial, Washington, D.C, 
October 28, 1925. 

Siberia, 1918-1919, asked whether his office had ever denied help to the air 
squadron. Spaatz responded that when the people of Oscoda, Michigan, had 
offered to rent a gunnery practice field to the Air Service for a dollar a year, he 
had had trouble persuading the War Department to pay. The crowd laughed, but 
Graves won the point when Spaatz was imable to recall specifically which office 
had delayed the matter. 

Neither Spaatz's nor Arnold's testimony swayed the court, which was even 
less impressed with Mitchell's decision to conduct an all-out defense designed 
to take advantage of the circus atmosphere engendered by the trial's heavy press 
coverage. The court-martial suspended Mitchell bom active duty for five years, 
and he resigned.^2 

The statements Spaatz made at the court-martial illustrate the intensity of his 
convictions about preparedness and the status of the Air Service. Despite warn- 
ings that his appearance might jeopardize his career, Spaatz, who believed in 
loyalty up and loyalty down, supported Mitchell. He displayed equal amounts of 
courage and tactlessness in bluntly describing Air Service conditions and in fix- 
ing responsibility for them. Spaatz later commented, "They can't do anything to 
you when you're under oath and tell them answers to their questions."^^ 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

During his first tour in Washington, D.C., Spaatz demonstrated another 
unusual facet of his character, his respect for the independence and intelligence 
of women. Although anything but a ladykiller or a Don Juan, Spaatz liked and 
appreciated women. As the father of three daughters and no sons he became 
used to living in a feminine household and he endured much good-natured teas- 
ing about his "harem." He developed many deep friendships with remarkable 
women in the course of his career. While in Washington, he encouraged his wife 
to accept what was then a remarkable opportunity. For three years Ruth Spaatz 
became the member of a professional standing acting troupe at the National 
Theater. She eventually played leading roles. Given society's attitudes toward 
working mothers and actresses, Spaatz's support of his wife seems all the more 
unusual.^4 Later, he would be one of the first and most enthusiastic supporters of 
the Women's Army Corps (WAC), in World War II. In fact, his executive offi- 
cer for most of World War II was a WAC, which made him probably the only 
officer of his rank in the U.S. armed services to have a woman serving in such a 

Spaatz continued on staff duties until the end of 1928, when he received 
orders to command the 7th Bombardment Group at Rockwell Field in southern 
California. One of his first actions there involved a publicity stunt conceived by 
a close friend, Capt. Ira C. Baker. Eaker proposed to set a new world record in 
flight endurance. In the moderate, predictable weather of southem California the 
flight would be safer, less stressful, and free of weather-imposed interference. 
There was also easy access to the media in nearby Hollywood. The idea appealed 
to Spaatz's adventurous instincts and he quickly endorsed Eaker' s proposal. 

Between January 1 and 7, 1929, the flight of the Question Mark, a Fokker 
tiimotor transport aircraft, commanded by Major Spaatz and crewed by Captain 
Eaker, Lt. Elwood R. Quesada, and Lt. Harry A. Halverson, set a world flight 
endurance record of 150 hours, 40 minutes, and 14 seconds, shuttling between 
Los Angeles and San Diego and gaining national and international attention. The 
Question Mark, so named because no one knew when it would come down, had 
its fuel tanks filled in the air 37 times, received 5,600 gallons of hand-pumped 
fuel, and traveled 11, 000 miles. Perceptive observers noted that if Spaatz and his 
crew could man a craft that long, so could bomber crews.^^ Less technologically 
oriented observers had different opinions. When Ruth Spaatz pointed out the air- 
craft flying overhead to the Spaatz's oldest daughter, seven-year-old Tattle, and 
remarked, "That's your daddy, and he's been up there longer than any human 
being has ever been in the air before. Isn't it marvelous?" Tattie crushingly 
replied, "I think it's sort of dumb."''^ 

Early in the flight — on January 1, as the plane flew over the Rose Bowl foot- 
ball game — the converted fire hose lowered for in-flight refueling came loose 
from the tank opening above the Question Mark and drenched Spaatz with 72- 
octane gasoline. Quesada headed for calmer weather over the ocean while the 
other crew members removed Spaatz's clothes and rubbed him down to prevent 


Early Career 

bums. Spaatz told them, "If I'm burned and have to bail out you keep this plane 
in the air, and that's an order."^^ When refueling recommenced, the unharmed 
major, clad only in a parachute and a grin, stood halfway out an open hatch to 
make sure nothing separated again. 

On January 4, heavy fog prevented supply ships from locating the Question 
Mark, which had flown inland toward the Imperial Valley and clearer skies. When 
the Question Mark finally contacted a refueler, both aircraft almost hit the ground 
after entering an air pocket. Throughout the flight, supply ships delivered box 
lunches prepared by Air Corps wives or purchased from local diners, and when the 
standing endurance record was broken, ground crews sent up five jars of caviar, 
cheese, figs, and ripe olives.^^ Engine trouble finally forced the plane down. 

The feat earned the Question Mark's crew Distinguished Flying Crosses. 
Spaatz's citation read in part, "By his endurance, resourcefulness and leadership, 
he demonstrated future possibilities in aviation which were heretofore not appar- 
ent and thus reflected great credit upon himself and the Army of the United 
States."^^ Of course, fleeting international fame and medals carried no weight 
with penny-pinching clerks at the War Department. They forwarded the flight's 
meal vouchers, approximately $75 per man, to the Comptroller General of the 
United States, who refused payment, noting: 

The fact that in the performance of the duty here in question the officers could 
not procure subsistence in the usual manner or at the accustomed places and 
that it was necessary to procure subsistence by means otherwise than ordinarily 
procured, creates no status giving a right to have the subsistence furnished them 
at the expense of the United 

The flight inspired several imitators and by the end of the year civilian aviators 
had set an endurance record of 420 hours.^^ 

The Question Mark flight again demonstrated Spaatz's skill as an adminis- 
trator and logistician. He set up more than adequate refueling and resupply 
arrangements and showed his intense desire to fulfill his duty — even at risk to 
himself. The drive to complete a task, in spite of obstacles, was his hallmark. 

After three years at Rockwell Field, Spaatz assumed command of the 1st 
Bombardment Wing at March Field in Riverside, California. From Califomia, 
Spaatz traveled back to the Potomac in 1933 where he served for two years as 
Chief of the Training and Operations Division in the Office of the Chief of the 
Air Corps (OCAC). In 1935 he received his first promotion in seventeen years — 
to lieutenant colonel. 

With the promotion came orders to attend the Army Command and General 
Staff School at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Most officers looked forward to 
this posting because it was a mandatory stepping-stone to the rank of general 
officer. Spaatz objected that he was too old (forty-four and only six years from 
retirement) and that he had no interest in the operation of an infantry division. 
He wrote Arnold, "I am going to Leavenworth not because I expect it will do me 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

any good, but primarily because I am ordered there and secondarily to get away 
from here [Washington]. "^^ Hg some relief, though, that the course had been 
reduced from two years to one. 

True to character, Spaatz, as he had done twenty-one years earlier at West 
Point, did barely enough course work to pass, finishing 94th out of 121. He 
made little attempt to conceal his contempt for the failure of the courses to con- 
tain a meaningful appreciation of air power. This attitude earned him an unfa- 
vorable recommendation for any further training in general staff or high com- 
mand duty.^^ The school had little influence on him and he apparently learned 
almost nothing of value there. 

Organization and Doctrine of the Prewar Air Corps 

Upon leaving Leavenworth in July 1936, Spaatz became Executive Officer, 
2d Wing, of the recently created General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force, 
Langley Field in Virginia. The three wings of GHQ Air Force were far larger 
than the units that had previously held that designation in the Air Corps. As a 
consequence, in going from a wing commander at March Field in 1933 to the 
new post in one of the three major combat units in the service, Spaatz assumed a 
position entirely in keeping with his seniority. The only operational squadron of 
B-17s in the Air Corps made up part of the 2d Wing's order of battle. The 
assignment to the big four-engine bombers showed how far Spaatz and Army air 
power had come since the Mitchell court-martial. 

Although the Air Corps Act of July 2, 1926, had changed the designation of 
the Army Air Service to the Army Air Corps and had authorized an expansion to 
1,800 aircraft and 20,000 officers and men, extra funds had never come and the 
change of name had left the Air Corps' status unchanged; it remained one of the 
Army's combat branches. Over the next nine years, numerous bills on air reform 
were introduced in Congress, but not one received a favorable committee report. 
The failure to obtain independence had led many Air Corps officers, including 
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Foulois, to settle for something more obtainable. They pro- 
posed to divide Army aviation into two components: (1) observation planes nor- 
mally assigned the armies, corps, mobile units, and fixed harbor defenses; and 
(2) remaining tactical support and striking force units grouped under the GHQ 
Air Force. The GHQ Air Force would operate under the wartime Army Supreme 
Commander (Army planning did not envisage a two-front war) to locate and 
attack the enemy; to assist the Army ground forces by attacking enemy rear 
areas; and to give direct support and cooperation, when required, to the ground 
forces. Spaatz served under Col. Frank M. Andrews on an Air Corps board that 
was authorized by the War Department to plan the creation of the GHQ Air 
Force, a concept Spaatz supported. 

On March 1, 1935, with the strong support of the Army Chief of Staff, 
General Douglas MacArthur, GHQ Air Force became a reality, gathering under 


Early Career 

Maj. Gen. James E. Fechet, Chief, U.S. Army Air Corps, discussing tlie Question 
Mark's fliglit witli its crew. Left to right: 1st Lt. Elwood R. Quesada, Capt. Ira C. 
Eaker, Fechet, M^. Carl A. Spaatz, and Sgt. Roy G. Hooe. 

its aegis all the tactical units based in the United States. It formed three combat 
wings, one at its headquarters at Langley Field and the other two at Barksdale 
Field in Louisiana and March Field in California. This measure at least brought 
much of the Air Corps' combat strength into a single cohesive command struc- 

Unfortunately, this reorganization grafted GHQ Air Force onto the already 
existing Air Corps. Both the Chief of the Air Corps, who retained responsibility 
for materiel procurement, persoimel recruitment, and individual training and 
indoctrination of air crews, and the Commanding General, GHQ Air Force, 
reported directly to the Army Chief of Staff. This duality led to friction and 
competition between the two separate parts of the Air Corps — a situation of 
divide and rule not unforeseen by the War Department. In March 1939, under 
the pressure of rearmament and possible war in Europe, both GHQ Air Force 
and the Office of the Chief of Air Corps became directly responsible to the 
Chief of the Air Corps. 

Technology and doctrine both underwent considerable changes in the post- 
Mitchell Air Corps. Spaatz, who had started the 1920s as one of the Air 
Service's pursuit (fighter) experts, ended the 1920s and spent most of the 1930s 
as a bombardment commander, first as Commanding Officer (CO), 7th Bom- 
bardment Group, from May 1929 to October 1931; then as CO, 1st Bomb Wing, 


The Question Mark Flight, January 1929. Scenes from the aerial experi- 
ment. Clockwise from above: The interior of the Question Mark reveals the positions 
of an auxiliary gas tank on the floor, refueling apparatus on the roof, and berths. A 
chase aircraft with its chalked message (opposite, above) shows one means of com- 
munication before the introduction of reliable airborne radios. The gravity-fed 
transfer of gasoline proceeds between aircraft (opposite, below). Spaatz (below) 
wrestles with the refueling hose as it reaches the Question Mark. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

from November 1931 to June 1933; and finally as Executive Officer of the 2d 
Wing, GHQ Air Force, from July 1936 to January 1939. This change in the tech- 
nical focus of Spaatz's career reflected the changes in aircraft and philosophy 
that influenced the Air Corps in the 1930s. 

Between 1930 and 1932, two fast, all-metal, monoplane twin-engine 
bombers entered the Air Corps inventory, the Boeing B-9 and the Martin B-10. 
The B-10, with a speed of 207 mph and a ceiling of 21,000 feet, outclassed any 
other bomber then in use in the world and most of the fighters as well. No 
sooner had the B-10 entered production than the Air Corps accepted bids on a 
newer generation of bombers, which resulted in the B-17. The B-17 weighed 
35,000 pounds (compared with the B-lO's 9,000), and had four engines and a 
service ceiling of 30,000 feet. At 14,000 feet, at a top speed of 250 mph it could 
carry 2,500 pounds of bombs 2,260 miles. The prototype model first flew in 
August 1935, yet the B-17, suitably modified and upgraded, remained a first line 
bomber in the AAF fleet until the end of World War 11.^'* 

As bombardment aviation prospered, pursuit aviation languished. The Air 
Corps, squeezed with limited funding, concentrated its appropriations on bomber 
development. The B-10 and the B-17 appeared not to need escort against enemy 
fighters. Also, the B-17 could attack an enemy before he came within range of 
sensitive American targets. With the enemy held at arm's length, the value of a 
large force of defensive fighters depreciated. As a result, the 1931-1935 period 
was the nadir of U.S. pursuit aviation and pursuit airframe development. The Air 
Corps' top fighter, the P-26, had an open cockpit, nonretractable landing gear, a 
range of 360 miles, and a top speed of 235 mph. This lag in development left the 
United States almost a full generation of fighter aircraft behind the world's other 
major aviation powers.^^ 

The most outspoken advocate of pursuit aviation in the service, Capt. Claire 
Chennault, head of pursuit instruction at the Air Corps Tactical School (which 
had moved in July 1931 from Langley Field to Maxwell Field in Alabama, just 
outside Montgomery), fought for a more balanced doctrine. He emphasized both 
the offensive and the defensive nature of fighter aircraft. Contending that pursuit 
aircraft could successfully intercept and destroy bombers as well as enemy fight- 
ers, he enunciated four major principles: 

1. Attainment of air supremacy depends upon the success of the pursuit 

2. The primary function of pursuit is to gain air supremacy. 

3. The first objective of pursuit is to destroy enemy pursuit. 

4. Success of pursuit depends upon equipment, selection and training of 
pilots, numbers, tactics, and organization in units large enough to provide effec- 
tive concentration of force.** 

His pleading did not convince the leaders of the Air Corps, who distrusted 
him. Chennault retired on the grounds of ill health in 1937 and subsequently led 
a volunteer American pursuit unit, the American Volunteer Group, known as the 


Early Career 

Flying Tigers, for the Nationalist Chinese forces fighting the Japanese. There he 
showed that his concepts were workable even under adverse conditions. 

Chennault left behind a few converts, such as Capt. Earle Partridge, who, 
with other officers, slightly revived pursuit aviation in the late 1930s. Through 
their efforts the Air Corps designed and accepted the P-40 fighter, which out- 
classed the P-26, although it proved inferior to the first-line fighters of other 
major aviation powers. The German Messerschmitt (Bf 109), the British 
Spitfire, and the Japanese Zero — all designed and brought into production at the 
same time as the P-40 — surpassed it. 

Air Corps doctrine in the post-Mitchell era shifted materially. Fueled by the 
changes in technology, by Mitchell's new writings (free of the need to conciliate 
the powers that be), and by the theories of Giulio Douhet (the Italian air power 
enthusiast and theoretician), most of the Air Corps accepted bombardment avia- 
tion rather than pursuit aviation as the most important arm of the service. 
Mitchell and Douhet advocated a form of aerial warfare that went far beyond the 
mere support of ground armies. Air power, they argued, could strike directly at a 
nation's means of production, its lines of transportation, the morale of its popu- 
lation, and the will of its leadership.^^ 

This aggressive and unofficial doctrine (official War Department doctrine 
focused on defending the continental United States) found a home in the Air 
Corps Tactical School (ACTS), where the instructors, mostly junior officers, 
adopted it and taught it to their classes.^* The major tenets of the ACTS included 
the following: 

1. The national objective in war is to break the enemy's will to resist and to 
force the enemy to submit to our will. 

2. The accomplishment of the first goal requires an offensive type of war- 

3. Military missions are best carried through by cooperation between air, 
ground, and naval forces, although only air can contribute to all missions. 

4. The special mission of the air arm is the attack of the whole of the 
enemy national structure to dislocate its military, political, economic, and 
social activities. 

5. Modem warfare has placed such a premium on material factors that a 
nation's war effort may be defeated by the interruption of its industrial net- 
work, which is vulnerable only to the air arm. The disruption of the enemy's 
industrial network is the real target, because such a disruption might produce a 
collapse in morale sufficient to induce surrender. 

6. Future wars will begin by air action. Thus we must have an adequate 
standing air force to ensure our defense and to begin immediate offensive oper- 
ations. We must place ourselves in a position to begin bombardment of the 
enemy as soon as possible. 

7. The current limited range of our aircraft requires the acquisition of allies 
to provide forward bases in order to begin action against the enemy. 

8. Assuming the existence of allies and forward bases, the air force would 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

have the power to choose between attacking the armed forces or the national 
structure of the enemy. The latter should be the primary objective.*' 

The foregoing doctrine, given the inevitability of the small prewar force, 
dictated a specific composition for strength available. The force would require a 
preponderance of long-range bombers to operate offensively. Bombers would 
maximize their effectiveness by extreme accuracy — 10 tons of bombs on target 
would do as much damage as 100 tons of bombs dropped with 10 percent accu- 
racy. Precision bombing meant daylight bombing; current and foreseeable tech- 
nology could not provide for precise night bombing. Daylight bombing deep 
into enemy territory, given current technology, meant that bombers would oper- 
ate without fighter escort and would need the ability to outrun or outgun enemy 
defensive fighters. The B-17, with its highly accurate and super-secret Norden 
bombsight, fit this specification perfectly, as would its successors. 

ACTS doctrine contained many assumptions that eventually proved invalid. 
It underestimated the capacity of a modem industrial nation and its populace to 
survive repeated and heavy bombing. It overestimated the ability of air technol- 
ogy to develop bombs big enough to damage heavy equipment or reinforced 
concrete and the ease with which those new bombs could be manufactured. It 
discounted the possibility of improvements in air defense and fighter technology 
that would reverse the advantage held by the bomber. In their most extreme 
position, heavy-bomber enthusiasts assumed that fighter defenses would be 
unable to locate bombers until they had dropped their bombs. Because bombers 
could strike with seeming impunity, the best defense was a good offense. Enemy 
forces would resort to their own attacks. Then the sky would fill with aerial 
armadas passing each other virtually undisturbed until the side with the most 
effective strength subdued the other. 

In only one other nation did the advocates of strategic bombing gain a deci- 
sive voice in shaping doctrine and affecting airframe design and acquisition — 
Britain. There the followers of Marshal of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Hugh 
Trenchard, the first Chief of Staff of the RAF, a service independent of the 
British army and navy, also adopted a bombing philosophy similar to that of 
Douhet and Mitchell. They, too, committed themselves to daylight bombard- 
ment, believing, in the words of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, in 1931, that 
*the bomber will always get through. The only defence is offence, which means 
you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you 
want to save yourselves."^'^ In Germany, France, Japan, and Italy, however, the 
air services, even if nominally independent, foimd themselves subservient to the- 
ories or general staffs that bound them to tactical support of their country's land 
or naval forces. 

The advent of radar and highly organized ground-spotter organizations, both 

unforeseen by Air Corps bomber advocates, solved the defensive problem of 
tracking the bomber force. One ACTS instructor, Maj. Haywood S. Hansell, a 


Early Career 

leading Air Corps bomber theoretician, who led the 3d Bomb Wing in Europe in 
1943 and the XXI Bomber Command in Guam in 1944, later admitted, "If our 
air theorists had had knowledge of radar in 1935, the American doctrine of strate- 
gic bombing in deep daylight penetrations would surely not have evolved."^ ^ 

Similarly, improvements in fighter design led to faster, more heavily armed 
types that could best the B-17 and could be overcome only if they were pre- 
vented from reaching the bombers. The Air Corps, however, had rejected the 
idea that fighters should escort the bombers deep into enemy territory. Current 
technology seemed incapable of producing an aircraft that could (1) carry the 
combined weight of fuel necessary for long missions and armament superior to 
its opponents' and (2) retain the speed and agility to survive a dogfight imbur- 
dened by the necessary weight penalties of long-range flight. In addition, the Air 
Corps would never have the funds to build both a prewar bomber fleet and an 
escort fighter fleet under a particularly parsimonious Congress. The Air Corps 
maintained its stance against long-range escort through 1940. Only the fortuitous 
development of the long-range P-51 and drop tanks for the P-47, as well as their 
deployment in late 1943 and early 1944, saved American air power from a costly 

During the 1930s, Spaatz articulated few views on air doctrine. What can be 
gleaned from his actions and writings as air observer during the Battle of 
Britain, as Chief of the Air Staff, and as combat commander in World War II 
suggests a clear affinity with the Air Corps Tactical School branch of air doc- 
trine. He had a close relationship with Arnold, a leading bomber man; Spaatz 
had served on the development boards for the B-17, the B-24, and the 
and he believed in their ability to defend themselves. But there were indications 
that, with regard to the tactical sphere of operations, Spaatz still adhered to 
Mitchell's early dictum regarding the absolute necessity of establishing air supe- 
riority before proceeding to other air operations. 

Spaatz's Association with Arnold and Eaker 

During the interwar years, Spaatz remained roughly one step behind Henry 
H. Arnold and one step ahead of Ira C. Eaker, two of his closest friends in the 
service. In many ways the careers of the triumvirate reflect the experience of the 
entire Air Corps for the period. 

Arnold to Spaatz to Eaker was not the double-play combination of a profes- 
sional baseball team but the eventual chain of command for American heavy- 
bomber forces in the British Isles. Henry H. Arnold (bom June 25, 1886), Carl 
A. Spaatz (bom June 28, 1891), and Ira C. Eaker (bom April 13, 1896) had a 
long association with one another. The three had first served together at 
Rockwell Field in San Diego, California, in December 1918. Their task of 
demobilizing units of the Air Service had been diametrically opposed to their 
future effort of building up a strategic bombing force. Their friendships, both 



personal and professional, had deepened through the years. Spaatz and Arnold 
were the closest of confidants from 1918 until the latter's death in 1950. Eaker 
was almost as close to both. Yet the three had different backgrounds, personal- 
ities, and approaches to life. 

Arnold graduated from West Point in 1907. Like Spaatz, he graduated in 
the lower half of his class academically and did not achieve cadet rank. Four 
years (and ten days of flight training) later he became one of the Army's first 
four licensed pilots and one of the first twenty-nine licensed pilots in the coun- 
try. Wilbur Wright even served as one of his instructors. Until slowed by a 
series of heart attacks at the height of his career in 1941, Arnold was an 
extremely energetic advocate of U.S. military aviation. He believed it should 
become an independent armed service, and he dedicated his life to seeing that 
it did. Although Arnold was highly intelligent, he was intellectually undisci- 
plined; thus he tended to endorse a variety of contradictory ideas in rushing to 
accomplish his goals. He was, on the one hand, astute enough to support the 
very long-range bomber, the B-29; he was, on the other, naive enough to see 
merit in what was derisively dubbed the "bats in the belfry" project to drop 
fire-bomb-carrying bats on Japanese cities. He had little patience with people 
who opposed his ideas but had an ability to get things done, especially when 
dealing with production and personnel. 

To his friends, Arnold demonstrated a charm, openness, and exuberance 
that helped earn him the sobriquet "Happy" or just plain "Hap." To his oppo- 
nents he was "a real S.O.B." One of his great regrets was missing the chance 
to serve in a combat command during World War I. Instead he had become the 
Army's youngest full colonel at age thirty-one and had spent the war in 
Washington, D.C., serving on the War Department Staff, where he saw first- 
hand the difficulties of organizing an air force from the ground up. 

After the war, he stayed in the Air Service, rising to Assistant Chief of the 
Air Corps in 1935; upon the flying death of Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover in 
1938, he became Chief of the Air Corps. Highlights along the way include tes- 
timony at Mitchell's court-martial, attendance at the Command and General 
Staff School in 1929, and the winning of the Mackay Trophy in 1934 for com- 
manding a flight of B-10 bombers from Boiling Field in Washington, D.C., to 
Fairbanks, Alaska, and back. Late in life, Spaatz said of Arnold, "I know he 
had confidence in me, because of the relationship we had before. With me, he 
might sound impatient, but when I responded and gave him the reason for 
what I was doing, that would end it."^^ 

Ira C. 'Tree" Eaker took a reserve commission in the Infantry after gradu- 
ating from Southeastern State Teachers College in Oklahoma in 1917. In 
November 1917, he transferred to the Signal Corps, Aviation Section; ten 
months later he received his pilot's rating. From 1919 to 192^ he served in the 
Philippines, and from 1922 to 1924, at Mitchel Field in New York. From 1924 
to 1926, he was a pilot for the Chief of the Air Service, Maj. Gen. Mason 


Early Career 

Patrick; the Assistant Chief, Brig. Gen. James Fechet; and the Assistant 
Secretary of War for Air, Trubee Davison. Unlike the fiery, hard-driving Arnold 
or the taciturn Spaatz, Eaker was the diplomat of the trio. Although not asked to 
testify at the Mitchell court-martial, because he served as assistant defense coun- 
sel at Maj. Gen. Patrick's orders, he stayed up nights helping Spaatz and Arnold 
prepare their statements. 

In the late 1920s and 1930s, Eaker pursued his career. He participated in the 
Pan-American Flight goodwill tour of 1926 and 1927 and the flight of the 
Question Mark, and he graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School in 1936 
and the Command and General Staff School in 1937. In 1936 he completed the 
first transcontinental flight purely on instruments, flying the entire trip with a 
canvas hood over his cockpit. 

In 1932 the Army sent Eaker to the Joumalism School at the University of 
Southern California; he earned a B.A. in joumalism in September 1933. This 
education helped him to write three books with Arnold. The most significant 
was The Flying Game, published in 1936. By 1941, he had gained his full 
colonelcy and the command of the 20th Pursuit Group at Mitchel Field. Both 
Spaatz and Arnold trusted him completely. That trust, Baker's skill in gaining 
the respect of others, and his undeniable skills as an air leader and pioneer made 
him Arnold's logical choice to arrange for the arrival of AAF combat forces in 
England in 1942. When Arnold chose Spaatz to lead the U.S. Eighth Air Force 
to Britain, both men mentally penciled in Eaker as second in command.^^ 

By the end of 1938, Carl Spaatz had spent twenty-eight years in the United 
States Army, twenty-three of them as a flyer. From his days at West Point 
through his course at the Command and General Staff School he showed little 
appreciation of, if not disdain for, the academic side of the military profession. 
He had independently conceived no profound or original thoughts concerning 
his specialty — military aviation. His mind did not tum to systematic thinking but 
worked intuitively. He was not an intellectual leader, but he became, nonethe- 
less, an early convert to many of the advanced aviation ideas of his era. He 
formed close associations with men such as Mitchell, Andrews, and Arnold, and 
he absorbed their ideas as his own. Spaatz believed that U.S. military aviation 
ought to be independent, and he placed great faith in the doctrine of strategic 
daylight precision bombing. Similarly, he did not display great enthusiasm for 
the technical aspects of airframe and engine research and development. He 
served on numerous aircraft development boards and participated in the Question 
Mark flight, but he was never assigned to his service's technological areas. 

If Spaatz's intellectual and scientific prowess did not raise him above his 
peers or catch the eye of Arnold, his breadth of experience in training, opera- 
tions, administration, and staff work as well as his self-confidence, honesty, loy- 
alty, and courage did. Spaatz was a man of action who invariably accompUshed 
the tasks set for him — an invaluable trait for any officer. At Issoudun he had 
demonstrated the ability to train and organize from the ground up. At the front 


M^. Carl A. "Tooey" Spatz, ca. 1930. 

Early Career 

A jaunty Lt. Col. Henry H. Arnold and actress Bebe Daniels pose in fh>nt of a Boeing 
P-12 "Peashooter," Long Beach, California, October 30, 1932. 

he had shot down three planes in as many weeks. He had gained insight into the 
problems associated with both pursuit and bombardment as group leader and 
wing commander. In his tours in the operations, training, and plans sections of 
the Office of the Chief of the Air Service/Corps, he had learned the bureaucratic 
intricacies of the War Department and had developed a great dislike for repeti- 
tive staff work. As a commander he would use his staff to insulate himself from 
routine in order to free himself for decisions. 

It was Spaatz's ability to make quick, correct decisions based on his wide 
experience, common sense, and intuition, coupled with the moral courage to 
face such decisions, that would make him an outstanding combat Air Force 


Chapter 2 

Prewar Planning 
(January 1939-November 1941) 

It takes close coordination with the Army to obtain maximum misuse of air power.' 

— Spaatz's Battle of Britain Diary, August 28, 1940. 

On January 12, 1939, Spaatz officially left the GHQ Air Force to assume 
command of the Plans Section of the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps 
(OCAC). He rejoined his friend Arnold, who had become head of the Air Corps 
on September 29, 1938. Toward the end of November 1938, a few weeks after 
the Munich crisis in Europe had ended, Arnold temporarily reassigned Spaatz 
from Langley Field to Washington, D.C., and ordered him to draw up in secret 
an expansion plan that would bring the Air Corps up to a strength of 10,000 
planes within two years. This marked the first step of the Air Corps' planning 
and preparation for World War II. For the next three years in roles as Chief of 
the Plans Section, as a special Military Air Observer to Britain, and as Chief of 
the Air Staff of the AAF, Carl Spaatz contributed to the Air Corps' preparations 
for war. 

Rearmament of the Air Corps 

On November 14, 1938, the day the United States recalled its Ambassador 
from Berlin and a week after the mid-term elections had returned reduced but 
still overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, Arnold 
attended a special meeting with President Roosevelt at the White House. Also 
present were Harry Hopkins, head of the Works Progress Administration and 
one of Roosevelt's chief advisers and troubleshooters; Robert H. Jackson, 
Solicitor General of the United States; Louis Johnson, Assistant Secretary of 
War; Herman Oliphant, General Counsel of the Treasury Department; General 



Malin Craig, Army Chief of Staff; and his deputy, Brig. Gen. George C. 
Marshall. The President apparently called the meeting in response to a series of 
disturbing European events. In late September the Munich Conference, which 
resulted in the German occupation of the Czech Sudetenland on October 3, fur- 
ther revealed the unrelenting nature of Hitler's territorial demands. A meeting 
with the U.S. Ambassador to France, William C. Bullitt, on October 13, con- 
firmed for Roosevelt the dangerous state of European politics. And the increas- 
ingly barbaric behavior of the Nazis toward the German Jews, displayed in such 
incidents as "Crystal Night" on November 8, 1938, amply illuminated the 
viciousness of the German stale's intemal policies. These events, the culmina- 
tion of years of Hitler's foreign and domestic policies, conclusively demon- 
strated to Roosevelt the rogue nature of the Nazi regime. They convinced him 
that the United Stated needed to enlarge its airplane production capacity greatly 
in order to counter the mounting security threat to the United Stated posed by 
the Germans. Roosevelt intended these planes not only for the Air Corps but for 
the French and British as well. Apparently FDR hoped that making an increased 
U.S. manufacturing capacity available to the French and British would enable 
them to procure enough aircraft either to forestall an attack by Hitler or to help 
them defeat him if war came.^ 

At the meeting on November 14, the President did most of the talking. He 
noted the weakness of U.S. defenses and pointed out that Germany had a 
reported air strength almost double the combined Anglo-French total. The 
President sought an Army Air Corps of 20,000 planes, with an annual produc- 
tive capacity of 2,000 planes per month. He knew, however, that such a program 
would not pass Congress. Therefore he asked the War Department to develop a 
plan for building 10,000 aircraft and for constructing new plant capacity for an 
additional 10,000 aircraft per year. Although his meeting concentrated on air- 
planes, it supplied the spark for all subsequent Army and Army Air Corps pre- 
war materiel and manpower expansion as the War Department sought not only 
new planes but funds to provide a balanced, combat-ready Army.3 

On November 17, Arnold detailed Spaatz along with Col. Joseph T. 
McNamey and Col. Claude Duncan to draw up within the next month the Air 
Corps' plan to meet the President's requests. This plan served as the blueprint 
for further expansion of an Air Corps that in the autumn of 1938 had only 1,600 
aircraft on hand. Plants working on aircraft contracts for the Air Corps had a 
productive capacity of only 88.2 planes per month.^ Even six months later (June 
1939), the Air Corps still had only thirteen operational B-17s and 22,287 person- 
nel, only twice the strength of the Cavalry .5 

In January 1939, Spaatz became Chief of the Plans Section of the OCAC. 
Aside from fourteen weeks as a special observer in Britain during the summer of 
1940 and one month as head of the Materiel Division, he remained in that post 
until July 1941 when he became the first Chief of the Air Staff, Army Air 
Forces. The major tasks of the Plans Section were the preparation of the Air 


Prewar Planning 

Msg. Gen. Henry H. 
Arnold, Chief, VS. 
Army Air Corps, 1938. 

Corps annexes to the Anny war plans; the integration of the lessons of the war 
in Europe into current Air Corps planning and training; the establishment of air- 
craft production priorities; the coordination of all research and development pro- 
jects associated with combat aircraft; and, most important, the creation and man- 
agement of the various air expansion and rearmament programs introduced in 
the prewar period.^ 

The first significant problem to face the Plans Section was Roosevelt's rejec- 
tion of the expansion plan presented to him by the Army and the Air Corps. He 
had asked for $500 million in Air Corps planes, but the Army and the Air Corps 
had requested an additional $200 million for Army materiel, $100 miljion for 
Navy aircraft, plus unstated amounts for air bases and air training. The President, 
who was not at all sure Congress would approve the additional $500 million in 
the first place, redistributed the funds giving $200 million of the $500 milUon to 
the Army materiel branches, earmaricing $120 million for air bases and other non- 
plane air items, and leaving $180 million for procurement of 3,000 combat air- 
craft. He promised to find the Navy's money elsewhere. Congress passed the 
expansion bill in April 1939, authorizing an Air Corps ceiling of 5,500 aircraft.^ 

Spaatz spent much of his time dealing with the nuts and bolts of training and 
procurement. The problem of aircraft for the French and British proved vexing 
from the beginning. On January 23, 1939, an advanced model U.S. Army dive- 
bomber crashed during a flight test, killing the American co-pilot and injuring 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

the French pilot and ten others. This accident gave ammunition to members of 
Congress and others who wished to build up U.S. forces before aiding Britain 
and France or who sought to avoid sending aid to any belligerent in the hope of 
avoiding entanglement in the coming war. 

Yet the accident also established a precedent permitting a policy of more lib- 
eral release of advanced aircraft. Within weeks the British purchased 650 air- 
craft worth $25 million, while the French added another 615 planes worth $60 
million. In the course of the year Canada, Australia, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, 
and Iraq placed further orders. Although the American aircraft industry accepted 
the orders, it feared that U.S. neutrality laws might prevent delivery in the event 
of war and was reluctant to expand production facilities. In the face of this reluc- 
tance, the French agreed to underwrite the cost of expansion for engines from 
Pratt and Whitney and airplanes from Wright Aeronautical. By November 1939, 
the British and French had invested more than $84 million in engine plants 
alone. ^ 

These large orders ran head-on into the Air Corps' own 5,500-plane pro- 
gram. In July and August 1939, the Air Corps let contracts of $105 million, 
more than the entire business of the industry in any peacetime year prior to 
1938. Congress spent an additional $57 million to buy new manufacturing 
equipment for the aircraft industry. By the end of 1939 there was a backlog of 
orders worth $630 million, with $400 million attributable to foreign purchases.^ 

The outbreak of war on September 1, 1939, the same day that George C. 
Marshall officially became Chief of the War Department General Staff, 
increased the pressure from the Western Allies for aid. On March 25, 1940, the 
Allies received permission to purchase all but the most advanced models of U.S. 
combat and trainer types. Aircraft available to the Allies included the B-17, B-24, 
B-25, B-26, A-20, and P-40, all front-line aircraft in the Air Corps inventory. 
After the fall of France, the British took over all French contracts and added more 
of their own. Their orders soon reached 14,000 planes, and after Dunkirk the 
administration continued its policy of filling Britain's immediate combat needs 
over the requirements of Air Corps expansion.'" As a result, the Air Corps was 
short of aircraft for training and for equipping its new and existing units. 

The entire process left Spaatz shaking his head in disagreement; years later 
he remarked, "In 1939, when the British Mission was here, my own feeling was 
that we should build up our own air force rather than build up someone else's."'! 
In a memo to Arnold he remarked, "It might be difficult to explain in the case of 
the collapse of England and the development of a threat against the Western 
Hemisphere or our possessions how we can agree that any airplanes can be 
diverted at a time when we have only sufficient modem airplanes to equip a pal- 
try few squadrons."12 


Prewar Planning 

Spaatz Observes the Battle of Britain Firsthand 

In May 1940, Spaatz took on a new assignment as Assistant Military 
Attache (Air) to Britain, or as he put it, "a high-class spy."l3 Arnold sent him to 
Europe to get a firsthand view of the current state of the air war. Officially, he 
went to study Royal Air Force (RAF) training and tactics. Unofficially, he went 
to discuss British aircraft requirements in light of U.S. production and training 
programs. As Chief of Air Corps Plans, a position he resumed soon after return- 
ing from Britain, Spaatz had unique knowledge of the status of the Air Corps' 
capabilities, including its readiness, training, procurement, and war plans. He 
would find this knowledge invaluable as he assessed the British experience. He 
could immediately apply whatever he learned from the RAF to the Air Corps' 

The position Spaatz occupied came about as a direct result of the interven- 
tion of President Roosevelt. In early 1940, the President and General Marshall 
visited an Air Corps display; afterward the President asked for the number of air 
attaches accredited to London. On learning that the embassy had two air 
attaches, he suggested doubling the figure. ^""^ The Air Corps promptly asked the 
British for permission to send two specialist officers as assistant air attaches and 
requested the British to share the tactical and technical lessons in the war to 
date. These officers would have diplomatic status as attaches, but they were 
actually technical observers. Their official orders referred to them as "MiUtary 
Air Observers." Although not explicitly stated, the Air Corps apparently 
intended to fill the two attache positions with a series of technical and adminis- 
trative experts, on relatively short assignments, to obtain access to the most 
recent combat developments. 

Although the RAF Director of Plans, Air Commodore John Slessor, gave the 
suggestions qualified support, other sections of the Air Ministry greeted the 
propositions with suspicion. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Cyril 
Newall asked, "What guarantee have we that this information will not find its 
way back to our enemies?" 'He added, "I am not prepared to be rushed by the 
Americans, who, as always, wish to have the best of both worlds. They would 
like to be our allies, but without any obligations, and they are not blind naturally 
to the pecuniary advantages of such a state of affairs."^^ 

The Air Ministry's delay elicited a protest from the British embassy in 
Washington. The British ambassador, the Marquis of Lothian, noted the unfa- 
vorable impression created by the delay, especially in light of the President's 
interest. He emphasized the advantages to be gained by having American manu- 
facturers build more combat-ready aircraft, and concluded, "I regard an early 
and favorable decision as highly desirable."!^ On March 11, influenced by the 
interest of Lothian and the President, the Chief of the Air Staff recommended 
approval of the proposal on the conditions "that information made available to 
these Air Attaches should be treated with complete secrecy, and that we should 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

expect to obtain a reasonable amount of information in return for what we give." 
The Chief of the Air Staff retained the full right to refuse the American attaches 
any information, i'^ The British subsequently decided to deny the American 
attaches access to all operations rooms and details of their workings,* to tell 
them nothing about any aspect of radar, to give no information about stabilized 
automatic bombsights, and to share no detailed drawings of power-operated tur- 

The first pair of observers arrived in Britain in April 1940. Instructions from 
the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps required them to report on the ability of 
bombardment aircraft to penetrate active antiaircraft defenses, on the use of 
escort fighters, on the effectiveness of aerial bombing, on methods proposed to 
increase bomber aircraft effectiveness, and on methods proposed to increase pur- 
suit aircraft effectiveness. Significantly, the Air Corps sent one of its leading 
ordnance, armaments, and bombing technical experts, Lt. Col. Grandison 
Gardner.t and an expert in aircraft engines, Maj. Franklin O. Carroll. Gardner 
stayed in Britain until the beginning of the German offensive in the west in May 
1940. He became convinced of the need to incorporate either existing British 
power-operated machine gun turrets, or if British designs could not be obtained, 
the development of American turrets, into the construction of all future 
American heavy bombers.^^ Both American ofiHcers reflected conventional Air 
Corps opinions. Neither expected America to take an active part in the war. 
However, Gardner did suggest that in the event the Americans supplied the RAF 
with a number of B-17s, experienced reserve Air Corps officers proceed to 
Canada to serve as civilian instructors to British crews.^l 

Spaatz and Capt. Benjamin S. Kelsy were the second set of Military Air 
Observers sent to Britain. They received the same instructions as Gardner and 
Carroll.22 Two weeks before their arrival, the acting American military attache 
in England, Col. Martin F. Scanlon, wrote the RAF Director of Intelligence, 
whose branch had responsibility for supervising and escorting foreign military 
visitors, to arrange inspections of RAF installations. Scanlon asked permission 
for Spaatz and Kelsey to observe the headquarters of RAF Fighter, Bomber, and 
Coastal Commands, to visit one station belonging to each command, and to 
inspect one of each type of training school.^^ This itinerary matched Spaatz' s 
expertise, as one of the chief Air Corps planning officers assigned to create and 
sustain an up-to-date and expanding Air Corps training program. The RAF's 
methods of coping with the rapid expansion of its force had a direct bearing on 
his own responsibiUties. 

* Within the operations rooms, RAF air defense fighter squadrons plotted all incoming infor- 
mation (including radar bearings) on aircraft over Britain. 

t Lt. Col. Gardner's previous assignment had been in the Air Materiel Division as Chief, 
Aimaments Laboratory, Experimental Engineering Section. For two years before that he had served 
as the operations officer and then the executive officer of the 19th Bombardment Group. 


Prewar Planning 

On May 28 Spaatz sailed into Genoa, Italy, on the U.S. liner Manhattan. 
U.S. neutrality laws forced him to sail on neutral shipping that avoided the 
blockade announced by the warring powers. Three days later, after a journey 
through still-neutral Italy and belligerent France, he arrived in London. The 
Dunkirk evacuation was in full operation, and the Allied coalition prepi^ed for 
the hopeless second phase of the Battle of France. The next morning, June 1, he 
was presented to the American ambassador, Joseph P. Kennedy. More impor- 
tant for the purpose of his mission, Spaatz also renewed his personal contacts 
with the principal embassy attaches for air. Col. Martin F. Scanlon and his 
assistant, Maj. George C. McDonald. They provided his entree to the RAF. 

On June 1, Spaatz 's first full day in Britain, he lunched with Air Chief 
Marshal Newall.* He also met the RAF Chief of Intelligence, Air Commodore 
Archibald Boyle. Two days later he lunched with his British opposite number. 
Air Commodore Slessor.^'* During these early meetings, Spaatz noted that after 

* RAF-AAF equivalent ranks: 

Marshal of the RAF General of the Army 

Air Chief Marshal (ACM) General 

Air Marshal (AM) Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen.) 

Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Major General (Maj. Gen.) 

Air Conunodore (A/Cmdr) Brigadier General (Brig. Gea) 

Group Captain (GO) Colwiel (Col.) 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

only nine months of war both the Germans and the British had begun to run 
short of trained crews. He learned that the British had captured German pilots 
with less than 100 hours' flying time and that, for the British themselves, a 
shortage of trained crews, not lack of aircraft, was the biggest bottleneck in 
fielding a large force. He also learned that the RAF "apparently thinks as we 
do, but [has] been hindered by higher-ups" with regard to the feasibility and 
desirability of strategic bombing of the German economy .^^ 

For the next ten days, Spaatz visited the RAF's Training Command, 
Technical Training Command, and training bases. The initial training system of 
the British impressed Spaatz, but he considered their bombing accuracy low 
and doubted the effectiveness of night bombing. Spaatz and the two other 
American attaches who accompanied him agreed that, in the event of active 
U.S. participation in the war, the most useful immediate contribution the United 
States could make would be high-altitude long-distance bombers.26 This con- 
clusion was probably based more on the predilection of Army Air Corps offi- 
cers toward the use of large bombers than to any lessons directly related to their 
visit. In almost every other phase of air activity, their observations must have 
shown them that the RAF had outpaced 1940 Air Corps practice. 

Meanwhile, the French, whose army had been shattered by the Wehrmacht, 
on June 17 asked for an armistice. During this dark period of the war, Spaatz ini- 
tiated informal staff talks to discuss the details of America's "almost inevitable" 
entry into the war.^' Spaatz 's authority to begin such extraordinary discussions 
was unclear. No secret instructions or hints of any have surfaced in Roosevelt's, 
Arnold's, and Spaatz's personal papers. Given Spaatz's presence as an observer 
in an ongoing program (the Air Corps continued to send short-term Military Air 
Observers to England until the U.S. entry into the war) and his assignment to the 
post before the outbreak of the German offensive on May 10, 1940, it seems 
unlikely that any higher authorities would have anticipated the need for immedi- 
ate emergency aid to England or would have authorized him to initiate such 
negotiations.* Spaatz probably initiated these discussions on his own. 

* Absence of proof, however does not mean that such instructions could not have been 
passed to Spaatz after he went to Britain. Spaatz arrived in London during the repercussions of 
the Tyler Kent affair, Kent was a code clerk in the American embassy. On May 20, 1940, the 
British informed the Americans, using incontrovertible evidence, that Kent had totally compro- 
mised U.S. diplomatic codes. As a result, all communications of the U.S. diplomatic service were 
blacked out for two to six weeks between Dunkirk and the fall of France, while scores of special 
couriers delivered new codes to all U.S. embassies. It may well have been that higher-ups in 
Washington could not have told Spaatz to begin negotiations even if they had wanted to, unless, 
of course, a courier hand-carried instructions from Washington to him. See David Kahn, The 
Codehreakers: The Story of Secret Writing (New York: Macmillan, 1967), pp. 494-495, for more 
on Tyler Kent. On the other hand, instructions could have reached Spaatz through the U.S. naval 
or military attach6s' office. Because of known slackness in State Department signal security, 
important message traffic to and from London, such as that between Roosevelt and Churchill, 
came via the Navy message center. 


Prewar Planning 

Such a step was probably less radical than it might at first appear. As Spaatz 
probably knew from his tour as Air Corps Chief of Plans, the U.S. and British 
navies had come to a preliminary meeting of minds on war-fighting strategy as 
early as December 1937.28 In late May 1940, as Spaatz may well have known, 
the U.S.- Naval Attache in London, Capt. Alan G. Kirk, with the approval of the 
British Admiralty, had recommended to his superiors the assignment of U.S. 
naval officers as observers with British fleet units, which was agreed to.29 On 
June 10, President Roosevelt gave strong public support to the British and 
French in the famous "stab in the back" speech delivered at Charlottesville, 
Virginia. The next day, at the President's insistence, the War Department trans- 
ferred to the British "surplus" war materiel, including 500,000 Enfield rifles, 
129,140,708 rounds of ammunition, 80,583 machine guns, 316 three-inch mor- 
tars, 20,000 revolvers, 25,000 Browning automatic rifles, and 895 seventy-five 
mm guns with a million rounds of ammunition, through an intermediary com- 
pany of the U.S. Steel Corporation.30 On June 15, the British Admiralty set up a 
committee, under the direction of Admiral Sidney Bailey, to consider questions 
arising from possible naval cooperation with the United States.^^ As a result, 
Spaatz ran little risk in opening exploratory talks of his own with the RAF; their 
public disclosure would have added little fuel to the measures already approved 
or imdertaken. Nor did he commit his country to more than information finding. 
In any case, this demarche was one of the first efforts in combined U.S.-British 
operational military planning. 

On June 13, the day before the fall of Paris, Major McDonald, after dis- 
cussing the subject of direct U.S. aid to the British with Spaatz, visited the RAF 
Director of Intelligence. He informed Air Commodore Archibald Boyle that mil- 
itary officers at the U.S. embassy were considering the possibility that the 
United States would contribute directly to the war in the air over Europe. Acting 
on the assumption that entry of the United States into the war was "almost 
inevitable," McDonald suggested that plans be prepared for the dispatch of fifty 
B-17s to Britain. If the proposal received a favorable hearing in the United 
States, then pilots could be trained and special targets studied. Bearing out 
Spaatz's responsibility in initiating this matter, McDonald indicated that if the 
RAF "thought there was anything in it, he could arrange for the necessary 
papers [emphasis in original] to be sent to General Miles [the senior U.S. 
Military Attache in London] and General Arnold in the U.S.A. at once."32 

The Director of Intelligence passed the McDonald-Spaatz suggestion on to 
Slessor, who was "all for the plan" in principle. On June 16, Spaatz, McDonald, 
and Slessor fully discussed the proposal and agreed on the details of a small air 
expeditionary force. ^3 After this session Slessor circulated the plan to the appro- 
priate branches of the Air Ministry so that each could contribute its share to the 
final plan. The targets suggested by the RAF included oil plants at Vienna, 
Regensburg, Leuna, Stettin, and Magdeburg; aircraft factories at Munich, Berlin, 
Magdeburg, Dessau, and Kassel; and targets in northern Italy. They were 


Spaatz and the Am War in Europe 

beyond the range of cuirent RAF bombers or were small, requiring precision 

Before these talks could progress further, on June 17, the British ambassador 
in Washington, D.C., Lord Lothian, proposed to the President that talks between 
the combined armies, navies, and, if necessary, air forces of the United States 
and BritEiin might be useful. Roosevelt consented.^^ This agreement in principle 
was immediately passed to the British armed services. On June 20, Slessor 
informed the Ah Staff, "The President of the U.S.A. has authorized immediate 
secret staff conversations on naval and air matters. . . . Major MacDonald and 
Colonel Spaatz (the U.S.D. of Plans) have already asked me to give them an out- 
line plan for the reception and operation of one heavy-bomber group and one 
fighter group."^^ Both the RAF and Spaatz seem to have regarded these talks as 
nothing more than courtesies, preliminary to the opening of formal staff conver- 

Prime Minister Churchill, however, dithered over accepting the President's 
offer. He feared that the Americans would use the occasion to insist on dis- 
cussing the transfer of the British fleet to transatlantic bases in the event of 
Britain's defeat. Foreign Minister Lord Halifax pressed the Prime Minister for 
an early decision, explaining that Roosevelt might cool to the idea, that the situ- 
ation m the Far East needed coordination, and that the service ministers were all 
in favor of talks.^'' On June 30, Churchill agreed to the talks provided they 
occurred in London where the British could ensure security. The President, who 


Prewar Planning 

wished to minimize publicity before the November 1940 national elections, was 
happy to agree.^^ 

After further delay, on July 20, Lord Lothian learned that Rear Adm. Robert 
L. Ghormley, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, and Brig. Gen. George V. 
Strong, Assistant Chief of Staff (head of the War Plans Division), had been 
appointed members of a U.S. military delegation destined for London for talks 
with British military leaders. Lothian thereupon pressed for the inclusion of an 
air expert, which resulted in the addition of Maj. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, 
Commanding General, GHQ Air Force. The true purpose of their visit was covered 
by an announcement that they had come for a meeting of the Anglo-American 
Standardization of the Arms Committee. The combined military talks began in 
London on August 20.^^ These higher level contacts superseded the initial 
Spaatz-McDonald-Slessor talks, and Spaatz returned to observing the war. 

On July 10, the first phase of the Battle of Britain began with Luftwaffe attacks 
on channel ports and shipping. Spaatz, who had requested and received permis- 
sion to stay beyond his sixty-day tour of duty,'*'^ watched these events closely. A 
new British disclosure policy made his observations even more valuable. A 
request by Spaatz and the other American air attaches to spend three or four 
days at a British fighter or bomber station in order to get a thorough look into 
the operational use of the aircraft there had forced the Air Ministry's hand. The 
workings of the operations room and of radar could not be concealed without 
great embarrassment to all concerned. Therefore, the Air Intelligence section in 
charge of escorting foreign officers requested instructions.'^^ 

The situation had changed drastically since April 1940. The British no 
longer had allies outside the Commonwealth and, as Slessor pointed out, the 
Germans had probably gained more information on radar from the French than 
was likely to result from leakage from America. Furthermore, the Prime Minister 
had agreed to exchange almost any sort of secret information with the Americans, 
subject to his personal review.^^ on July 3, the Air Ministry ruled that there was 
"no reason whatever why these officers should not be told of the existence of 
R.D.F. [radio direction finding equipment, or radar — ^radio detection and rang- 
ing], its purposes and its achievements."* The ministry added that "in fact there 
is every reason why they should be told, so that they may report to their own 
country that we have valuable items which would make an exchange of techni- 
cal information worthwhile from the American standpoint. "^^ At the same time, 
the Air Ministry opened operations rooms and all variations of radar to the 
Americans, but did withhold all technical details and design information. 

Spaatz spent the last two weeks of July with Bomber Command observing 
tactics and methods. Nine of those days he spent with a Wellington twin-engine 
night-bomber group. There Spaatz saw the small scale and ineffectiveness of 

* The British used the term RDF to refer to all types of radar devices. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

current British night bombing. He therefore, not unnaturally, saw little reason to 
question U.S. daylight precision doctrine.^^ Concerning the Wellington he 
remarked, "Although night bombing has resulted in few losses, believe answer 
to bombardment is altitude, speed and daylight attack, preceded by weather 
reconnaissance plane in uncertain weather." A few of the more frank British 
flyers, he added, "have doubts as to the effectiveness of their night attacks."^^ 

At this time neither Bomber Command nor the German night fighter defenses 
had reached the high degree of effectiveness they achieved later in the war. Nor 
had the British begun their policy of city area bombing to destroy civilian hous- 
ing and demoralize the German work force. Instead, confronted with a situation 
even worse than the prewar "worst case" estimates, Bomber Command, since 
June 20, 1940, had targeted the German aircraft industry, but proved ineffective. 
Less than a month later the head of Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshal 
Charles A. Portal, ruefully confirmed Spaatz's observations: of the ten primary 
aircraft industry targets "only three can be found with any certainty in moonlight 
by average crews. Expert crews may be expected to find the remainder on clear 
nights with a full moon, and average crews will sometimes find them after a 
good deal of time has been spent in searching." In addition. Portal pointed out 
that the air industry targets were in sparsely inhabited sites so that bombs miss- 
ing the plants fell on empty ground. Because the vast majority of the bombs 
dropped missed, the raids had no disruptive effect on the German economy. 
Portal suggested bombing rail centers instead.^^ Rail yards occupied the center 
of many German cities. Portal, who became Chief of the Air Staff in October 
1940, would have the authority and opportunity to see that his suggestions were 
carried out until the end of the war. The RAF's ineffectiveness in hitting specific 
targets at night would eventually lead to the institution of the mass fire-raising 
attacks in which hundreds of four-engine heavy bombers would drench the cen- 
ter of a city, such as Hamburg or Dresden, with thousands of incendiary bombs. 

The performance of the RAF against the Luftwaffe persuaded Spaatz that 
the British could beat any German invasion attempt. On July 31, he informed 
Arnold that if the Germans did not launch their invasion in August, they would 
have to postpone it indefinitely: "Unless the Germans have more up their sleeve 
than they have shown so far," Spaatz commented, "their chance of success in 
destroying the RAF is not particularly good. In air combat, German losses in 
daylight raids will be huge. In night attacks, the accitfacy of their bombing is of 
very low order." An all-out attempt might win for the Germans, but Spaatz noted, 
"if not, it would be the beginning of the end for German air supremacy.""*^ 

On August 2, Spaatz repeated these views at a breakfast meeting in Claridge's, 
where the embassy's military attaches met with William J. Donovan, a "special 
observer" from President Roosevelt. Donovan, a World War I hero and an old 
fiiend of the President, had come to assess Britain's chances of staying in the 
war."*^ After speaking out at the luncheon, Spaatz noted in his diary that 
Donovan had agreed with his — Spaatz's — estimates of the threat of a direct 


Prewar Planning 

Bomb damage to London, autumn 1940. 

German invasion of Britain. Both Donovan and Spaatz felt that the Germans 
would try an alternative strategy of closing the Mediterranean and harassing 
British ports and shipping with air raids and U-boats.^^ Donovan reported to the 
President that the British would successfully resist invasion and were resolved to 
continue fighting.^O The extent to which Spaatz 's advice aided Donovan in 
reaching his eventual decision cannot be determined. As an authoritative 
American military observer, however, Spaatz must have helped counter what 
Donovan termed "a great deal of hopelessness [that] had been coming over those 
in our high command here." At the end of August 1940, Donovan informed Air 
Chief Marshal Newall, "I still have confidence that my judgment as to your 
power of resistance to invasion and of your resolution is still right. "^^ It is not 
unreasonable to assume Spaatz's similar views must have influenced the Presi- 
dent's special observer. 

During August, when Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, Commander in 
Chief of the Luftwaffe, ordered his men to begin the decisive phase of the Battle 
of Britain, Spaatz spent much of his time with Fighter Command, particularly 
with No. 12 Group under Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory. (See Map 1 
for RAF Fighter Group defensive sectors.) At that point he finally got a good 
look at radar, including its early warning, ground-controlled intercept (GCI), and 
Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) variants. This equipment enabled the RAF 
accurately to track and to intercept German raids, as well as to distinguish its 
aircraft from enemy aircraft. Spaatz and Lt. Col. Frank O'D. Hunter, an Army 
Air Corps pursuit expert who had originally been sent to observe the French air 


Prewar Planning 

force, spent all of August 9 in the operations room at No. 12 Group getting a full 
explanation of night and day procedures. Spaatz recommended the construc- 
tion of similar underground bomb-proof control facilities in the Panama Canal 
Zone and Hawaii. He noted favorably the efficiency of female RAF personnel, 
which may have encouraged his own subsequent wartime support of U.S. Army 
female personnel. Spaatz may also have formed an unfavorable opinion of Air 
Vice-Marshal Leigh-Mallory's abilities. Spaatz criticized what he termed "too 
much rigidity of control by the higher command, which as stated above, extends 
even to the point of Group control of individual sections of a squadron. "^3 

In mid- August, Spaatz spent three days at Dover, where he witnessed German 
air attacks and watched British heavy antiaircraft artillery fire inaccurately on 
friend and foe alike. During his stay at Dover, Spaatz, dressed in his rumpled 
civiUan tweeds, wandered away from his escort and was promptly detained by a 
British naval commander as a spy when he blxmdered into a restricted area. It 
took some hours to establish his identity. Spaatz took the incident with his usual 
good humor and a few days later signed himself in at an RAF field as "Col. Carl 
A. Spaatz, German spy."^"* At the British Technical Establishment, he examined 
downed German aircraft. Detailed reports on each plane soon found their way to 
Arnold. As for the performance of the Luftwaffe, Spaatz noted that its bombing 
had been "particularly lousy," and he suspected that it had been "too hastily con- 
structed" to stand up for long to the apparently better trained RAF Fighter 

In the last week of August, Spaatz maintained his close contacts with the 
RAF. On August 24, he attended bomber crew debriefings. From this and other 
experiences in Britain he deduced, "General opinion is that German fighters will 
not attack a well-closed-in day-bombing formation."^^ Three days later, he dis- 
cussed tactics and operations with Slessor's deputy, Group Captain Baker, and 
with McDonald and Hunter. They agreed that a modem, well-dispersed air force 
could not be destroyed on the ground. ^'^ They further noted the unsuitability of 
dive-bombers against well-defended targets and the relative effectiveness of 
rapid-firing, hght antiaircraft weapons. In discussing the jealousy between the 
British army and the RAF, which Spaatz had previously noted,^^ they stated, "It 
takes close coordination with the Army to obtain maximum misuse of air power."^^ 
In other words, the more an air force conformed to the wishes of its army, the less 
effective it would be. 

On August 30, Spaatz informed the acting senior U.S. military attache in 
London, Col. Raymond E. Lee, that there would be no blitzkrieg of England in 
1940 and that, therefore, he would just as soon "go home and get to work."^^ 
The next day he received his orders to retum home. Before he left on September 
9, a week before the British broke the German air offensive, he talked several 
times with Slessor and experienced the first of the major Luftwaffe night raids 
on London. Of Hitler's terror raids Spaatz noted, "Apparently indiscriminate 
bombing of London has started."^! During one of the night raids he dined with 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

American press correspondent Drew Middleton. When Spaatz heard the bombs 
drop, he recognized that the Gennans hsd switched from their cotmterair cffln- 
paign to terror bombing, conceding air superiority to the British. He remarked to 
Middleton, "By God, that's good, that's fine. The British are winning." Spaatz 
continued, "The Germans can't bomb at night— -iell, I don't think they're very 
good in daylight— but they haven't been trained for night bombing. Nope, the 
British have got them now. They've forced them to bomb at night. The Krauts 
must be losing more than we know."^^ Spaatz recommended that B-17s be 
shipped at once to the British to add strength to the long-range British shiking 

After leaving England, Spaatz spent ten days in Lisbon. There he saw first- 
hand the pitiful state of refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, which further 
hardened his attitude toward the Ctennans. At lunch at the U.S. legation he told 
those present, including the ex-govemcff of New Hampshire, John G. Winant, 
who was on his way to London to replace Joseph P. Kennedy as ambassador to 
England, "The English have develc^)ed real air power, whereas tiie Germans so 
far appear to have developed a mass of air geared to the Army and [are] lost 
when confronted with properly applied air effort."^^ gy tjiis Spaatz meant that, 
despite the ineffectiv^iess of its current night-bombing cmnpaign, the RAF had 
laid a solid foundation for development into an effective force; whereas the 
Luftwaffe was flawed at its creation and rickety in its structure and, thus, would 

John G. Winant, U.S. 
Ambassador to Britain, 

Prewar Planning 

be unable to sustain its early successes. Spaatz noted that Winant seemed im- 
pressed with his views. A week later, with Generals Strong and Emmons, Spaatz 
left Lisbon for Washington. 

Spaatz' s stay in England had shown him the current state of air warfare, but 
it had not shaken his belief in some key Air Corps doctrine. He had seen, for 
instance, no reason to modify views concerning long-range escort fighters. The 
Air Corps held that a formation of self-defending bombers did not need escort, 
especially because such escort, in order to carry enough fuel internally, would 
have to be larger, and therefore would be less maneuverable and combat capa- 
ble, than lighter, shorter-range defending fighter aircraft. The performance of the 
German heavy twin-engine fighter, the Bf 110, against the nimble, shorter-range, 
lighter British single-engine Hurricanes and Spitfires, confirmed this conviction. 
Spaatz also observed from German operations that close fighter escort, in any 
case, did "not insure immunity from attack by hostile fighters on the bombers. A 
comparatively fewer number of hostile fighters can, by determined effort, break 
up the large [bomber] formation."^ 

After talking to RAF bomber pilots Spaatz also reaffirmed his belief in the 
necessity of daylight precision bombing for accurate results and in the defensive 
strength of large, heavy-bomber formations. Explaining away the apparent con- 
tradiction between the assumption that determined fighter attack would break up 
bomber formations and the assumption that a well-flown bomber formation 
could defend itself, he observed that so far the Germans had not demonstrated 
the ability to mount a determined attack on British bombers. Spaatz apparently 
had not fully realized that the British had switched to night operations because 
of excessive casualties suffered in daylight operations. These beliefs, typical of 
those of many Air Corps leaders, would be modified only by costly direct 
actions with "determined" German fighter planes in 1943. 

But, as already noted, Spaatz had seen the ineffectiveness of the close escort 
tactics the Germans employed to protect their bombers. In close escort German 
fighters stayed with the bombers until British fighters attacked, at which time 
the escorts tried to break up the intercepting fighters' assault. This tactic had 
proved ineffective. It robbed the German fighters of their aggressiveness by 
forcing them to react to British attacks instead of launching their own. In con- 
trast, distant escort freed the fighters to leave the slow-moving bomber forma- 
tions and to attack enemy fighters when they made their appearance. This obser- 
vation may have helped Spaatz reach his brilliant wartime decision, in January 
1944, to free the Eighth Air Force's fighters from the bombers by authorizing 
them to search out and destroy enemy fighters. At the same time, Spaatz dis- 
carded one of the tenets of prewar air thinking — that air bombardment could 
shatter a civilian population's willingness to resist. Spaatz left Britain convinced 
that the morale of the British and probably that of the German civil populations 
would not collapse in the face of bombardment. 

Spaatz 's stay in Britain also exposed him to technical innovations, such as 


The Battle of Britain. Contending aircraft reflected the advanced aviation technology 
of the era. Clockwise from above: The twin-engine Vicliers- Armstrong Wellington was one 
of RAF Bomber Command's principal models. With a 4^00-pound bomb load and a max- 
imum speed of 235 mph, it was among the best of its type. Hawker Hurricanes (opposite, 
above) were the most numerous British fighters in the battle and bore the brunt of early 
engagements with the Luftwaffe. Each was armed with eight Browning .303 caliber 
machine guns and attained a speed of 350 mph. Marks 1 and lA Supermarine Spitfires 
(opposite, middle) confronted the Luftwaffe in the later days of the battle. As heavily armed 
as Hurricanes but faster, the Spitfires outfought and outlasted most German adversaries. 
The Bf 109E flghter (opposite, below) was the Luftwaffe's mainstay in Germany's five- 
month effort to dominate British skies. It was a formidable opponent at 350 mph and com- 
bined machine gun and cannon armament. Its fUel-iivjected engine enabled pushovers into 
sudden dives, giving its pilot the advantage in initiating and breaking off combat, but a 
short range limited its ability to protect German bombers over Britain or to engage the 
RAF at will. The Bf 110 (below, right), designed as a long-range "destroyer" (Zerstdrer), 
fared poorly as a fighter and escort in the battle. The Heinkel 111 medium bomber 
(below, left), carrying 4,410 pounds of ordnance and a crew of four, had only light 
defensive armament. In the absence of German fighter escorts with sufficient staying 
power, the graceful but slower Heinkels took heavy losses in the German aerial assault 
on the British Isles. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

radar and IFF equipment that electronically identified friendly or enemy planes 
on radar scopes; new combat tactics, especially night bombing and defensive 
fighter deployment; and organizational and manufacturing problems and solu- 
tions which would help his own planning in the United States. Unfortunately, 
Spaatz appears not to have recorded any opinions he may have formed during 
this trip of RAF leaders. He had only a brief meeting with Portal, Air Officer 
Commanding (AOC) Bomber Command. A colonel, even one from a favorably 
disposed neutral country, simply did not hobnob with officers at the highest lev- 
els of command, especially when they were in the midst of their nation's single 
most important battle since Trafalgar or, perhaps, Hastings. 

Among the more junior RAF officers, however, Spaatz made several friends, 
including Slessor, who became Chief of the Air Staff after World War II. In his 
memoirs Slessor recorded a lively picture of the American air observer, whom 
he described as "a man of few words but with a dry sense of humor that can 
reduce me to a state of schoolboy giggles quicker than anything I know." Spaatz 
was, Slessor continued, "a man of action rather than of speech, rather inarticu- 
late but with an uncommon flair for the really important issue and a passionate 
faith in the mission of air power."^^ Spaatz's acquaintance with RAF leadership 
and methods, acceptability to the RAF, his optimistic reports that contradicted 
gloomy predictions from other sources, and offers of help in Britain's darkest 
hour had much to do with his selection a little over a year later to command U.S. 
air power in Britain. 

Spaatz's time in Britain did not turn him into an ardent Anglophile; even after 
his retum to the States he continued to oppose sending aircraft to Britain at the 
expense of U.S. Air Corps requirements. Yet he had been exposed to the latest avi- 
ation technology and tactics available, and he had gained a better understanding of 
the RAF, the force most likely to be allied with the U.S. Air Corps after America's 
certain entry into the war. Spaatz's initiation of negotiations for Air Corps entry 
into the war, even though superseded, and his often-stated belief in the ultimate 
victory of the RAF earned him the respect of his British associates. More impor- 
tant, Spaatz's transmittal of his faith in the RAF to Arnold and to Donovan may 
have helped persuade the President to increase U.S. assistance to Britain and, as a 
result, made Spaatz a key contributor to the growing Anglo-American relation- 

Spaatz's failure to draw correct conclusions from the German and British 

experiences about the survivability of daylight bomber aircraft also had impor- 
tant consequences. He did not realize that procurement of an effective daylight 
long-range fighter escort aircraft was a top priority or that Air Corps bomber 
formations were no more likely to survive in daylight than RAF or Luftwaffe 
bomber formations. If he had decided that the Air Corps, too, could survive only 
at night, or that it needed to begin development of appropriate escort fighters 
immediately, then the American strategic bombing effort in World War II, 
which he was eventually to direct, might have taken an entirely different path, 
with incalculable results. 


Prewar Planning 

Spaatz and Prewar Strategic Planning 

On May 16, 1940, two days before Spaatz left for England, the Air Corps, at 
the President's behest, increased its expansion plans. Spaatz's plan of December 
1938 had called for an increase in annual military pilot training from 300 to 
4,500 pilots. In the spring of 1939 the Air Corps had adopted a planning goal of 
24 combat-ready groups — that is, fully equipped, completely trained, and capa- 
ble of fulfilling their assigned missions by June 30, 1941. But the May 16 
expansion raised these goals to 7,000 pilots per year and 41 groups. Barely 2 
months later, on August 8, newer plans called for 12,000 pilots and 54 combat- 
ready groups. The August 8 plans also called for 21,470 planes and a total of 
119,000 personnel, almost 6 times the personnel envisaged in the summer of 
1939. These were the changes Spaatz found when he resumed his post as Chief 
of the Plans Division (upgraded from a section in May 1940), Headquarters, Air 
Corps, in November 1940. In another month, on December 17, 1940, a new pro- 
gram called for 30,000 pilots a year.^^ 

Between his return from England in September and his resumption of duty 
in the Plans Division, Spaatz spent a month as Chief of the Air Corps Materiel 
Division. Although the Materiel Division did the bulk of its work at Wright 
Field in Dayton, Ohio, a recent Air Corps reorganization had moved the Office 
of the Chief of the Materiel Division to Washington, D.C. This was probably 
done in the hope of integrating the technical, aeronautical, and procurement 
knowledge of the Materiel Division into the Headquarters of the Air Corps, 
where it was desperately needed for planning purposes. It also made the 
Materiel Chief readily available to Congress, where he had to justify his deci- 
sions. Soon after Spaatz's brief occupancy of it, the Office of the Chief of the 
Materiel Division returned to Dayton, where it has remained. Spaatz merely 
occupied the post for a month while waiting for his appointment as an Assistant 
Chief of the Air Corps, with its accompanying rank of brigadier general,* to 
become effective so that he could return to the Plans Division. 

As the authorized strength of the Air Corps ballooned, its structure under- 
went reorganization. In October 1940, General Marshall began a new study of 
Air Corps needs, which resulted in the unsuccessful^^ reorganization of 
November 19, 1940, under which General Arnold became Acting Deputy Chief 
of Staff for Air, but the GHQ Air Force was removed from his authority and 
placed under the authority of the Army Chief of Staff in peacetime and under the 
control of the Headquarters of the Commanding General of the Army in wartime. 
This scheme, which once again separated the Air Corps' combat function from 

* The posts of Chief of the Air Corps and the three Assistant Chiefs of the Air Corps endowed 
their occupants with the ranks of major general and brigadier general respectively. The rank stayed 
with the job; former occupants reverted to their Regular Army ranks, usually colonel or lieutenant 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Robert A. Lovett, 
Assistant Secretary of 
War for Air, 1941-1945. 

its supply and training function, could not long survive. By the end of March 
1941, Marshall initiated new studies that resulted in the final prewar air organi- 

On June 20, 1941, the War Department issued a revised edition of Army 
Regulation 9S-S, which governed the status, function, and organization of the air 
arm. It created the Army Air Forces (AAF) headed by a chief, who also became 
the Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and had the authority to supervise and coordi- 
nate the work of the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, the GHQ Air Force 
(redesignated Air Force Combat Command), andidl other air elements. The reg- 
ulation further created an Air Staff to assist the new deputy chief, which freed 
the air arm from much of the dominance formerly exercised over it by the 
ground officers who controlled the War Department General Staff. At Arnold's 
behest, Spaatz became the first Chief of the Air Staff at the end of June 1941. 
This organization sufficed untU March 9, 1942, when a final rearrangement of 
positions gave the Army Air Forces equality with the Army Ground Forces and 
greatly reduced the power of the General Staff.^ In another War Department 
organizational move, in December 1940, Robert A. Lovett became Special 
Assistant to the Secretary of War on all air matters. The foUowing spring Lovett 
advanced to the post of Assistant Secretary of War for Air, a position left vacant 
by the Roosevelt administration since 1933. Lovett would prove a powerful, 
friendly, and effective civilian advocate fen* the AAF. 

Negotiations with the British and strategic planning kept pace with air 


Prewar Planning 

expansion and reorganization. On January 29, 1941, committees from the U.S. 
and British armed forces began secret meetings "to determine the best means 
whereby the United States and the British Commonwealth might defeat Germany 
and her allies should the United States be compelled to resort to war."^^ 
President Roosevelt had personally read, edited, and approved the U.S. delega- 
tion's initial statement of views, presented to the British at the conference's first 
session.^1 The final report, American-British Staff Conversations No. 1 (ABC- 
1), submitted on March 27, 1941, stated, "The Atlantic and European area is con- 
sidered to be the decisive theatre."'^ Both parties agreed to the principle of 
defeating Germany first and, if necessary, Japan second. ABC-1 also provided 
for a joint planning staff, a joint transport service, prompt exchange of military 
intelligence, unity of command within each theater, integrity of national forces, 
and for "U.S. Army air bombardment units [to] operate offensively in collabora- 
tion with the Royal Air Force, primarily against German Military Power at its 

A second report on these staff conversations (ABC-2) dealt with air matters. 
In it, the Americans agreed that until the United States entered the war, all air- 
craft production from newly constructed manufacturing capacity would go to the 
British. This decision, of course, delayed the Air Corps' 54-group program. It 
was also agreed that, if the United States entered the war, new manufacturing 
capacity would be split 50-50.^^ Spaatz, in his capacity as Chief, Plans Division, 
had vigorously objected to the agreement because of its open-ended commit- 
ment to supply aircraft to the British, which would reduce the reinforcement of 
U.S. overseas possessions and the number of aircraft available for hemispheric 
defense.^5 Arnold, who agreed with Spaatz and protested that a shortage of air- 
craft reduced "to the vanishing point the present low combat strength of this 
force," nonetheless reluctantly agreed to defer fiiU implementation of the 54- 
group program.'^ 

In April 1941, the two powers agreed to exchange military delegations to 
facilitate exchange of information and planning. A British Military Mission, 
with joint army-navy-air representatives, came to Washington, and two separate 
"Special Observer Groups," one U.S. Army and one U.S. Navy, crossed the 
Atlantic to London. Because the largest initial combat force contemplated for 
deployment to Britain was drawn from the Air Corps, an air officer, Maj. Gen. 
James E. Chaney, headed the "Special Army Observer Group."'^ 

Under the impetus of ABC-1, U.S. military planners updated and further 
developed Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan Rainbow No. 5. This plan 
accepted most of the strategic assumptions of ABC-1 and gained the approval of 
the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy in May 1941. Rainbow No. 
5 provided detailed breakdowns and deployment schedules for Army (including 
air) and Navy units allocated to areas of anticipated conflict. 

On July 9, President Roosevelt requested the Joint Board of the Army and 
Navy — the predecessor of the current U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff — to prepare an 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

estimate of the "over-all production requirements required to defeat our potential 
enemies."^^ When the President's request descended on the War Department 
General Staff, the War Plans Division (WPD), the staff's most prestigious sec- 
tion and its major military planning component, was already swamped. WPD's 
chief. Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, appointed Maj. Albert C. Wedemeyer to 
head the group preparing the estimate. Wedemeyer, in turn, expected Lt. Col. 
Clayton Bissell and other air personnel in the WPD to prepare an air annex. 
Bissell went to Col. Harold George of the newly formed Air War Plans Division 
(A WPD), part of Spaatz's new Air Staff. Bissell asked George to bring over a 
team to help out. George objected and went to Spaatz, his immediate superior. 
Both he and Spaatz realized that if the WPD prepared the air plan, Army ground 
officers would base their estimates on tactical close air support needs while 
shortchanging strategic air war needs. The two went to Arnold, who supported 
their position. Arnold suggested to Gerow that because WPD already had an 
overload of work, the Air Staff would help draw up the air requirements. Gerow 
acquiesced. He and Spaatz "discussed the over-all problem prior to the work 
being conducted."^^ 

George and three other air officers, Lt. Col. Kenneth H. Walker, Maj. Laurence 
S. Kuter, and Maj. Haywood S. Hansell, prepared the air aimex in one week, 
August 4-11, 1941. Because of its clear definition of the AAF's strategic aims 
and its call for a gigantic air arm to accomplish those aims, the Army Air Forces 
Annex, "Munitions Requirements of the AAF for the Defeat of Our Potential 
Enemies" (AWPD/1), proved to be a key document in the AAF's preparation for 
the war. It defined three AAF tasks in order of importance: (1) to wage a sus- 
tained air offensive against Germany; (2) to conduct strategically defensive 
operations in the Orient; and (3) to provide air actions essential to the defense of 
the continental United States and Western Hemisphere. The air offensive against 
Germany had four goals; (1) reducing Axis naval operations; (2) restricting 
Axis air operations; (3) undermining "German combat effectiveness by depriva- 
tion of essential supplies, production, and communications facilities" (a strategic 
bombing campaign); and (4) supporting a final land invasion of Germany .^^ To 
accomplish its mission, AWPD/1 called for 2,164,916 men and 63,467 aircraft, 
of which a total of 4,300 combat aircraft (3,000 bombers, 1,300 fighters) were 
slated for Britain. 

In mid- August, Gerow reviewed and accepted AWPD/1. Marshall followed 
suit on August 30, as did Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson on September 11. 
AWPD/1 reached the President's desk a few days later. Along with the Army 
and Navy requirements, it formed the beginning of the Victory Program on 
which the government based its initial industrial mobilization. Stimson's and 
Marshall's agreement with the plan meant that the AAF had the approval of the 
War Department's top civilian and military officials for its ambitious wartime 

During 1941, Spaatz may have made what in retrospect seems one of the 


Prewar Planning 

biggest mistakes in his professional life. He has been accused of having had in 
his hands, but not having appreciated, the solution to the long-range escort- 
fighter problem. Spaatz apparently failed to realize that available technology in 
the form of expendable, externally carried fuel tanks, called drop tanks, could 
satisfactorily solve the problem of range extension. One scholar has stated, 

Literally hundreds of crewmen lost their lives because escort fighters of suit- 
able range were not ready when needed. The lack of escort fighters jeopardized 
the whole effort to prove the feasibility of strategic air power. What an irony 
that he who was to command the Eighth Air Force and suffer the brutal losses 
incurred in ramming home the Combined Bomber Offensive in 1943 and 1944 
had it in his power in 1941 to provide the solution but did not." 

Although it is true that the Army Air Corps did not fully realize the possibil- 
ities of drop tanks, singling out Spaatz as the man responsible for this situation 
on the basis of one questionable document seems unfair. As the basis of his 
charge, the scholar cited a broadly written memorandum composed by Maj. 
Hoyt S. Vandenberg and signed by Spaatz. The scholar concentrated on the doc- 
trinal aspects of the memorandum, noting its opposition to the "carrying of 
bombs" and "provision of excessive range" (drop tanks), both of which "require 
additional and unnecessary [sic] weight and operational complexities that are 
incompatible with the mission of pursuit." Furthermore, bombs and additional 
range would "provide opportunities for improper tactical use of pursuit types. "^-^ 

Despite its language, however, this memorandum addressed aircraft produc- 
tion more than doctrine. It disapproved production change no. 3 (the addition 
of both a 75-gallon auxiliary fuel tank and provisions for carrying either 300- 
pound or 600-pound bombs) for 623 P-39D aircraft. In a background memoran- 
dum to Spaatz, Vandenberg justified the refusal on the ground that all the pro- 
posed changes "would tend to slow up production and reduce the combat effec- 
tiveness of the airplane." Vandenberg also suggested that only essential changes 
be approved.^4 Spaatz's Plans Division, faced with desperate aircraft shortages 
throughout its training and readiness programs, concentrated on pushing aircraft 
through the production system. As a consequence, Vandenberg argued that "a 
determined effort should be made to keep the pursuit airplane as simple as pos- 
sible."85 As a technical detail it should be noted that the P-39D aircraft's design 
limited it to operations under 12,(X)0 feet, and at no time did the Air Corps seri- 
ously consider using the plane as an escort for heavy bombers. Production, not 
doctrinal considerations, motivated Spaatz's action. 

Although the Air Corps began a limited-range extension program in 1940 
and expanded it in 1942,86 Spaatz's and Vandenberg's attitudes toward long- 
range fighter escort typified prevailing prewar Air Corps views. The authors of 
AWPD/1, in August 1941, showed equal shortsightedness. "It has not yet been 
demonstrated," the plan stated, "that the technical improvements to the bom- 
bardment airplane are or can be sufficient to overcome the pursuit airplane." 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Consequently, the plan observed, "It is unwise to neglect development of escort 
fighters designed to enable bombardment formations to fight through to the 
objective." The aircraft envisioned by the plan was not an aircraft of pursuit per- 
formance with extended range, such as the P-51, but, instead, was a convoy 
defender like the YB-40 (a B-17 modified by the addition of extensive armor 
plate and several additional .50 caliber machine guns). AWPD/1 called for the 
funding of an experimental squadron of thirteen such planes.87 In combat with 
the American Eighth Air Force over Germany, in 1943, the YB-40 proved a 
costly failure. Similar opinions appeared in the AAF's last prewar review of its 
pursuit aircraft requirements. In October 1941, Spaatz, as Chief of the Air Staff, 
and at Arnold's behest,88 appointed a board of pursuit and air materiel officers 
to recommend "the future development of pursuit aircraft." The opinions of the 
board's members, which included Col. Ira C. Eaker and Col. Frank O'D. Hunter, 
illustrated the thinking of the AAF on the eve of the war. 

Eaker, in particular, would have played a key role in this board's decisions. 
He had just returned from England, where he had served as Special Air Observer 
until October 1, 1941. His primary mission had been to determine the feasibility 
of integrating the radio systems of American ground echelons, pursuit forma- 
tions, and aircraft into British operations. 89 However, Amold had also instructed 
Eaker to conduct "a broad study of all phases of fighter operations." This 
included obtaining "the best thought now prevalent on the subject of escort 
fighter protection."90 Eaker did a thorough job. He not only talked to many 
senior RAF officers, he came back with dozens of copies of British reports con- 
cerning British and German fighter tactics and performance. He undoubtedly 
shared the information he collected with the pursuit panel. 

The views of the RAF on bomber escort aircraft, as Eaker accurately 
reported, paralleled those of the AAF. Eaker's visit to England came just at the 
conclusion of a limited upsurge in RAF daylight bombing missions. The RAF 
dtfected those missions, nicknamed "circus" raids, at targets on the French coast 
within range of British fighter planes. The purpose of these raids was to produce 
attritional combat between escorting RAF fighters and attacking German fight- 
ers. They failed because the Germans soon adopted a policy of engaging only 
when they held the advantage. The Germans could adopt such a policy because 
the limited range of the RAF escorts did not allow bombing of targets vital to 
the German war effort.9l Circus operations reinforced the prevailing RAF opin- 
ion that short-range fighter aircraft could not provide strategic escort. 

In May 1941, shortly before launching the operation, the Chief of the Air 
Staff and a former head of Bomber Command, An- Chief Marshal Portal, had 
replied to a query from Churchill on fighter escorts by noting, "Increased range 
can only be provided at the expense of performance and maneuverability." He 
added, "The long-range fighter, whether built specifically as such, or whether 
given increased range by fitting extra tanks, will be at a disadvantage compared 
with the short-range high-performance fighter."92 On September 28, Portal 


Prewar Planning 

expressed similar views to Eaker, drawing the logical conclusion "that the 
proper escort fighter will be a ship exactly like the bomber it is going to escort." 
This heavily armored and armed aircraft would take station at weak points in the 
bomber formation and by "expel[ling] heavy caliber fire in all directions," make 
it "very difficult for the light single seater fighters. "93 The commander of the 
RAF Test, Research, and Experimental Unit spoke to Eaker of the impossibility 
of the large fighter getting through a screen of small fighters, saying, "They will 
sting it to death."94 

The organization and design of the RAF contributed to its inability to con- 
ceive of aircraft combining bomber range and fighter performance. The raison 
d'etre of Fighter Command was the air defense of Britain. Its planes, especially 
the superb Spitfire series, had been designed and built for that purpose alone. 
Therefore, they emphasized performance over endurance, which was not needed 
for defense of English air space. Fighter Command had little operational need to 
develop long-range fighters. Likewise, Bomber Command had committed itself, 
despite limited circus operations, to the strategic bombing of Germany at night. 
Night operations depended on avoiding and deceiving the enemy's defenses, not 
fighting through them, which would have required escort aircraft. Bomber 
Command, too, had little operational need for escort aircraft. Given the per- 
ceived lack of need and the limited resources available, the RAF's refusal to 
invest in escort aircraft and its failure to pursue technical solutions to fighter 
range extension were understandable. In fact, the RAF never developed or 
employed substantial numbers of long-range fighter escort aircraft during the 

These strongly held opinions of a future major ally, with over two years of 
hard-won direct combat experience, which had been confirmed by AAF 
observers, undoubtedly influenced the AAF pursuit board. Eaker, himself, con- 
tinued to advocate the development of a convoy defender until its experimental 
employment, under his own command, demonstrated the fallacy of the idea in 
actual operations. In any case, the board's officers had probably held views sim- 
ilar to those of the RAF even before their exposure to Baker's reports and docu- 

The AAF pursuit board, like the RAF, could not overcome the seeming tau- 
tological improbability of the successful long-range fighter escort and made no 
recommendation whatever for one. Instead, the board suggested consideration of 
a "convoy defender." "Only with the assistance of such an airplane," warned the 
board, "may bombardment aviation hope to successfully deliver dayUght attacks 
deep inside enemy territory and beyond range of interceptor support." Yet the 
board feared that the size and expense of such a convoy defender would interfere 
with other production and development projects. It thus gave low priority to 
development of a convoy defender prototype, concluding: 

The Board is unable to say whether or not the project is worthwhile, and can 
only point out the need for himishing day bombardment with the very maxi- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

mum attainable defensive firepower if that form of attack is to be chosen to 
gain a decision in war against any other modem power.'' 

The board also considered a long-range pursuit aircraft with a range of 2,000 
miles and an operating altitude above 25,000 feet, which would have sacrificed 
climb and maneuverability for range and endurance. But the board did not rec- 
ommend the development of a prototype, nor did it envisage the use of drop 
tanks by this plane.96 

Operational employment and accessory equipment also received attention by 
the board, which recommended the high-priority development of nineteen items 
of new equipment, including new gunsights, pressurized cockpits, new means of 
aircraft propulsion, and "expendable external auxiliary-fuel tanks." The board 
defined pursuit's mission in these words: "The general mission of our pursuit 
aviation is to seek out and destroy, by air combat, hostile aircraft which attack or 
threaten to attack our vital installations on the ground or oiu" friendly aviation in 
the air. The principal target is the hostile bomber" [emphasis added].97 Here the 
board enunciated a principle embraced by none other than Hermann Goering, 
the Luftwaffe's commanding officer. Interestingly enough, almost all students of 
great strategic bombing campaigns of World War II cite Goering 's directives to 
attack Allied bombers in preference to Allied fighters as a key tactical error. 

The board saw a need for adding drop tanks and for increasing the safety of 
bombers on deep penetration raids. Yet it never connected the single-engine pur- 
suit aircraft and drop tanks with the bomber protection problem. Neither did the 
rest of the AAF until almost too late. Ironically, a future commander of the 
Eighth Air Force did have the solution to the fighter escort problem in his reach, 
but failed to grasp it. However, that failure, if failure it be, applies more to 
Eaker, who sat on the development board, than to Spaatz. 

The refusal by Spaatz, Eaker, and the board to place a high priority on 
fighter escort stemmed more from technical considerations than from a denial of 
the necessity for it. The recent observations of both men in Britain had shown 
the disadvantages of the Bf 1 10 against the Spitfire and Hurricane. RAF techni- 
cal personnel were convinced that a plane capable of both long-range combat 
and successful dogfighting could not be built — a view shared by Spaatz and 
Eaker and reflected in the board's findings. Eight years earlier Spaatz had writ- 
ten Arnold concerning a long-range fighter prototype: "If this plane used as a 
single seater operates to its full range of 1,000 miles, it would undoubtedly be 
used for the purpose of accompanying bombardment." In that case, Spaatz thought 
that the fighter "would be forced to meet interceptor pursuit of the enemy which, 
with a much lower cruise range, will have greatly superior performance. "98 

Spaatz and Eaker, of course, had seen the British and the Germans both 
resort to night bombing because their bombardment aircraft could not survive in 
hostile daylight skies. They discounted that experience by calculating that the 
B-17 flew higher, was more rugged, and carried more and heavier guns than any 
European bomber. They also assumed that the Americans would maintain 


Prewar Planning 

tighter defensive formation than the British or Germans. 

Events proved the Americans and British correct in their assumption that no 
heavy fighter could successfully perform long-range escort in Europe. The P-38, 
an American twin-engine fighter, had its greatest impact in the Pacific against a 
very different foe. The P-38, because of its higher operating altitude and faster 
diving speed, a factor of its greater weight, was not helpless against German air- 
craft; it just operated at a disadvantage in a melee because of its relative lack of 
maneuverability, especially when opposing pilots were of equal ability. The P-38 
performed better than the Bf 1 10 in the strategic escort role, but as soon as suffi- 
cient numbers of long-range single-engine fighters became available, the AAF 
hastened to replace it. 

Ironically, the aircraft that proved the ultimate solution to the long-range 
escort problem, the P-51 (Mustang), had its maiden flight in October 1940, a 
year before the pursuit board met. The Mustang was the direct result of a con- 
tract between the British government and the North American Aviation Corporation. 
The contract, signed in January 1940, specified completion within 120 days of a 
prototype single-engine fighter aircraft. Within 117 days, North American rolled 
out the plane, complete except for its engine. The design incorporated lessons 
learned from the early days of the war and included simple lines, for ease of pro- 
duction; an in-line water-cooled engine, frowned upon by the AAF because of 
its vulnerability to damage compared with a radial air-cooled engine; and an 
advanced laminar-flow wing section design for improved performance. As rec- 
ompense for giving permission to the British to produce the aircraft in the 
United States, the AAF took delivery of two of the initial ten aircraft for testing. 

The original U.S.-produced and -designed Allison engine of the P-51, the 
same used in the P-40, did not provide enough power and limited the P-51 's best 
performance to altitudes below 15,000 feet, an operational ceiling unsuitable for 
escort of heavy bombers. The British, who appreciated the possibilities of the 
Mustang's sleek airframe, replaced the original engine with their own powerfiil 
Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The mating of one of the outstanding piston-driven 
aircraft engines ever made and a superb airframe resulted in a hybrid of distin- 
guished performance, perhaps the best propeller-driven fighter of World War n. 

The Americans, too, made a key contribution to the Mustang's development. 
In their search for a suitable long-range escort they added increased internal tank- 
age, which extended the P-51 's escort range to 475 miles (the maximum range of a 
P-47 with drop tanks) and 108-gallon drop tanks, which extended its escort 
range to more than 650 miles (to Berlin and beyond). These improvements made 
the P-51 the preferred escort for the American heavy bombers and the dominant 
fighter over Europe for the last year of the war. Unfortunately, it did not come 
into mass production in the United States until 1942 and did not reach American 
fighter groups in England until December 1943. It reached the Eighth Air Force 
just in time to help turn the tide of the air war, in conjunction with the yeoman- 
like service of P-47s equipped with new longer-range drop tanks, and to prevent 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

the U.S. strategic bomber effort from foundering because of excessive losses 
sustained in unescorted deep-penetration missions into Germany. 99 

Moreover, the aircraft was a bargain; in 1943, each P-51 cost $58,824, com- 
pared with $105,567 for a P-38 and $104,258 for a P-47.100 An aircraft privately 
designed and built in less than four months, with no govemment research and 
development input, cost less, was easier to produce, and outperformed the two 
aircraft the AAF had spent years bringing to fruition. Perhaps the P-51 was a 
technological freak aided by wartime combat experience and superior British 
engine technology, or perhaps the Air Corps aircraft development program had 
limited itself to overly conservative engineering. lOl 

As 1941 drew to a close, the most important and dramatic portion of 
Spaatz's career lay before him. In the three years prior to U.S. entry into World 
War II, Spaatz had worked at the center of U.S. air expansion. Few officers 
could equal his many years of command experience or his breadth of knowledge 
of the current state of AAF readiness and plans for future production. He under- 
stood his force's lack of training and the long delays to be expected in securing 
replacement aircraft, and this knowledge may account for much of his subse- 
quent reluctance to commit his command in Britain to combat until it was fully 
ready. Finally, his trip to Britain, which gave him knowledge of modem combat 
and acquainted him with senior RAF officers, made him an obvious choice for 
leadership when the United States entered the war in Europe. His seniority enti- 
tled him to a large role, but he could keep such a role only by successful perfor- 


Chapter 3 

Spaatz Commands the 
Eighth Air Force 
(December 1941-November 1942) 

If we fold up here, where will it stop? It could be an 
irreparable blow to our side, at the very time our Allies are 
hanging on by a hair absorbing terrible punishment, and 
counting on us to live up to our big promises. We're the 
only force in U.S. uniforms capable of hitting the number- 
one enemy for a long time.' 

— Maj. Gen. Pritchard to Brig. Gen. Savage, 
Archbury Field, England, late 1942 

Early in the afternoon of December 7, 1941, Spaatz at home in Alexandria, 
Virginia, answered his phone. He exclaimed "Christ, no!," slammed down the 
receiver, and headed for the front door.2 The Japanese had attacked Pearl 
Harbor. Almost ten years earlier, after participating in maneuvers based in Oahu, 
Hawaii, Spaatz had written that the exercises had, "conclusively demonstrated 
the ineffectiveness of carrier based airplanes against land based airplanes." To 
be fair to him, one should note that he had also suggested the dispersal of Army 
aircraft in Oahu to forty or fifty airfields — a move that would have rendered the 
Japanese attack against the AAF much less effective.^ 

Like many officers in Washington, D.C., in late 1941, Spaatz had braced for 
an imminent outbreak of hostilities with Japan, but the date and location of the 
attack, Pearl Harbor, instead of the Philippines, had surprised him. The next day. 
Congress, after President Roosevelt's dramatic "day of infamy" speech, declared 
war on Japan. On December 11, Hitler declared war on the United States. 
Hitler's action allowed the Allies to implement the decision that formed the 
bedrock of all U.S. and combined Anglo-American prewar plaiming — Germany 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

first. Hitler had not even obtained a Japanese declaration of war on the Soviet 
Union in return. 

In the next year, Spaatz would devote all his energies to defeating the Nazi 
regime. He would organize, lead to Britain, and send into combat the first incre- 
ments of an armada destined to rule the daylight skies over Europe. He would 
defend the AAF's doctrine, its public image, and the integrity of his forces 
against all comers. And he would oversee the allocation and organization of 
much of his force for participation in the Allied invasion of North Africa in 
November 1942. 

When Spaatz reached his office on December 7, he and several others who 
had also just arrived discussed what to do. Spaatz placed the Air Staff and AAF 
Headquarters on a round-the-clock manning basis. Next, he ordered the 31st 
Pursuit Group to the Seattle area and the 1st Pursuit Group to the Los Angeles 
area, and he activated the Western Aircraft Warning Service.4 The destruction of 
the fleet left the West Coast wide open to attack. 

Among those present at Spaatz 's office in the Munitions Building on the 
mall in Washington, D.C., were Robert A. Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War 
for Air, and Maj. Lauris Norstad, Chief of Intelligence for the Air Force Combat 
Command. They all sat on the floor with their backs toward the wall and lis- 
tened to a hasty and inadequate intelligence briefing on Japanese strengths and 
intentions. They discussed the applicable war plans and settled on Rainbow No. 
5 which provided for a two-front war, with the main thrust in Europe and hold- 
ing action against Japan. Because Arnold was on a trip to the West Coast, Spaatz 
was, to use Norstad's phrase, "sitting in the seat," the man responsible for mak- 
ing decisions. He promptly decided to implement the plan. In less than an hour 
after the news of the attack broke, Spaatz was calling AAF units and ordering 
them to fulfill their roles in Rainbow No. 5.5 

Rapidly unfolding events in the Pacific soon destroyed the strategic basis of 
the plan. The attack on Pearl Harbor eliminated whatever chance the U.S. Navy 
might have had of preventing an all-out Japanese attack on the Philippines and the 
tiny U.S.-held islands of Guam and Wake. Moreover, the loss of the British cap- 
ital ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse on December 10 plus the 
impotence of the U.S. Navy and the incompetence or unpreparedness of the 
defenders produced further disasters in Malaya, Burma, the East Indies, the 
Philippines, and the Pacific islands. These events forced the Americans to divert 
considerable air resources to the war against Japan, but not to abandon their 
commitment to defeat Germany first. 

At the first of the great series of Allied strategic planning conferences, the 
Arcadia Conference held in Washington, D.C., from December 24, 1941, to 
January 14, 1942, the Americans and the British agreed that Germany remained 
the chief enemy. Among the decisions made, two affected the AAF's hope of 
launching a bomber offensive from Britain: the Allies reluctantly decided (1) to 
send additional troops to the Pacific and (2) to mount an invasion of French 


The Eighth Air Force 

North Africa. The Americans would garrison the stops on the air ferry route 
from Hawaii to Australia; supply more garrisons for islands such as Christmas, 
Borabora, and Samoa; and station a large number of troops in New Caledonia to 
help the French. Because the British could not meet their strategic commitments 
to Australia and New Zealand, the Americans sent 61,000 troops and over 
500,000 tons of cargo to help defend both countries. 

Troops sent to the Pacific required more shipping than troops sent to Britain 
because those units sailing to the Far East expected to enter combat soon after 
arrival. This meant that they had to carry all equipment required for combat with 
them which had to be combat loaded, i.e., completely assembled and packed on 
the ship in a manner that enabled the off loading of essential weapons, ammuni- 
tion, and supplies first. Loading for combat emphasized combat necessity, not 
efficient use of a ship's storage space. Hence, combat loading consumed more 
shipping tonnage.6 In contrast, troops going to Britain still had months of train- 
ing and preparation before them and did not have to travel combat loaded. The 
diversion of shipping to the Pacific war slowed AAF deployment to Britain. 

Roosevelt and Churchill further complicated matters by directing an inva- 
sion to be mounted against French North Africa known as Super-Gymnast. The 
British, whose 8th Army had just relieved Tobruk and seemed to have defeated 
the Germans and Italians, had great interest in a North African invasion. The 
Americans, except for Roosevelt, had less enthusiasm. They had to find shipping 
to send a force across the Atlantic and were not about to allow the siren song of 
then- ally to bring them to grief in the Mediterranean. This alternative kept more 
shipping tied up and unavailable for carrying men and mat&iel to the British 

An Axis resurgence in Libya undercut the planning to invade North Africa 
by bringing into question the attitude of the Vichy government, which gave 
every indication that it would support the Germans as long as they continued to 
win. On March 3, 1942, the Combined British and American Chiefs of Staff 
(CCS) dropped Super-Gymnast as an operational possibility.^ The Americans 
advanced a new alternative. One American in particular, the new head of the 
War Plans Division, Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, had already sent two 
important memoranda to General Marshall proposing that the Allies launch an 
early invasion of Europe. Eisenhower had good reasons for the suggestion. It 
placed a minimum strain on shipping. It did not disperse the escorts vital to the 
North Atlantic line of communications to Britain. A buildup in England would 
force the Germans to put a larger garrison in western Europe, leaving fewer 
troops to fight the Soviets. Once ashore in France, the invaders would find better 
land communications than anywhere else in Europe. Numerous airfields already 
existing in England allowed for the establishment of the large air force necessary 
to gain air superiority over the beachhead. An invasion of western Europe would 
allow the British to employ offensively a maximum portion of their combat 
power because they would not have to leave behind a large force to defend the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

home islands. And the attack would cause the Germans to fight on yet another 
front .9 One can find no better statement of the U.S. Army's rationale for an 
invasion of northwestern Europe. Eisenhower n\ade passing reference to a U.S.- 
British air attack designed to clear the way for the landing but no mention of a 
strategic bombing campaign against the Reich. 

By the end of March 1942, the Operations Division (OPD), the successor to 
the War Plans Division under the Army reorganization of March 9, delivered yet 
another plan to Marshall emphasizing the need for a massive assault from 
England to France. Marshall, of course, needed no convincing. He and Secretary 
of War Stimson urged the President to approve the project. Instead, Roosevelt 
approved the idea of developing a plan and clearing it with London. Within two 
days of the President's decision, OPD produced a draft invasion plan, including 
an analysis of troop readiness and availability, supply requirements and shipping 
resources, and an AAF outline for attacks on either September 15, 1942, or April 
1, 1943. Marshall and Stimson presented this latest design to Roosevelt, who 
approved it, authorizing Marshall and Harry Hopkins, FDR's chief aide, to 
travel to London to secure British agreement to a common strategy. The Presi- 
dent made clear to the British his support of the plan by sending Marshall not 
only as Chief of Staff but as an envoy or negotiator "in the name of the 

The U.S. delegation arrived in London on April 8. It included an air planner. 
Col. Howard A. Craig. The Americans repeated the arguments of Eisenhower's 
memoranda and stated that if all preparations went forward, a combined force of 
5,800 aircraft and 48 divisions could begin the attack against northwestern 
Europe. The plan had three phases. The preparatory phase (code-named 
Bolero) was to include development of a logistics base, movement of troops 
and equipment, establishment of a preliminary front using England to stage 
commando raids and to mount strategic air attacks against occupied Europe and 
Germany on an increasing scale, and contingency planning for a possible emer- 
gency offensive in 1942. The second phase (Sledgehammer) was the cross- 
channel invasion to seize beachheads in the Le Havre-Boulogne area. The third 
phase (Roundup) was the expansion of the beachhead and breakout. The 
Americans promised to have 1 million men, 30 divisions, and 2,550 combat air- 
craft ready by April 1, 1943, but only 372 divisions and 700 combat aircraft by 
September 15, 1942.11 

For the next six days the British and American planners and the British Chiefs of 
Staff discussed the "Marshall Memorandum," as the British dubbed the plan. On 
April 14, the British accepted the plan with one proviso — ^that all necessary mea- 
sures be taken to prevent a joining of Japanese and German forces. 1 2 The Americans 
had no objections.l3 The Marshall Memorandum, especially the Bolero phase, was 
the strategic foundation for Spaatz's own plans for the buildup of the U.S. Eighth 
Air Force in England. By the end of July 1942, the ground under this foundation had 
shifted, threatening to bring down the planning basis of the AAF in Europe. 


The Eighth Air Force 

The decisions at the Arcadia Conference and the acceptance of the 
Marshall Memorandum substantially modified AWPD/1. The diversion of ship- 
ping to the Pacific overturned deployment predictions, and the preparation for a 
land invasion meant less time for the strategic bomber offensive and an in- 
creased emphasis on the creation of tactical air power to support the invasion. 
On February 12, 1942, General Arnold announced that the AAF would send to 
the British Isles 16 heavy-bombardment groups, 3 pursuit groups, and 8 photo- 
reconnaissance squadrons, 512 heavy bombers, 225 fighters, and 96 reconnais- 
sance planes. In a personal telegram to Churchill, which examined the disposition 
of U.S. armed forces throughout the world, Roosevelt supplied a tentative sched- 
ule for the arrival of the AAF in Britain: 

July 1942 — 3 heavy-bomber groups (105 planes), 1 medium-bomber 
group (57 planes), 3 light-bomber groups (171 planes), and 5 fighter groups 
(400 planes); 

October 1942 — 11 heavy-bomber groups (385 planes), 3 medium-bomber 
groups (171 planes), 5 light-bomber groups (285 planes), and 7 fighter groups 
(560 planes); 

January 1943 — 15 heavy-bomber groups (525 planes), 7 medium-bomber 
groups (399 planes), 7 light-bomber groups (399 planes), and 13 fighter groups 
(1,040 planes). 

The President explicitly noted that the fighters were "to be used as fighter 
escort for daylight bombing and for offensive sweeps. "14 The man intended to 
prepare the way for this armada. Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, arrived in England on 
February 20 and established the VIII Bomber Command on February 23. 

On February 2, 1942, Arnold made Spaatz Commander-designate of the AAF 
in Britain. Spaatz also became Commanding General of the Air Force Combat 
Command (the successor to GHQ Air Force). The position carried with it the 
rank of temporary major general. For the next three months, Spaatz applied his 
organizational skills to preparing the AAF for overseas movement. He suggested 
on March 31 that the Eighth Air Force be made the intermediate command head- 
quarters between the U.S. Army European Theater of Operations and its subordi- 
nate AAF commands. Thus, the Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force 
would be not only the chief of all AAF units in the theater but also the auman 
responsible for overseeing both a large strategic and a large tactical air force. 
Official orders established the Eighth as such exactly one week later, on April 7. 

When Spaatz assumed command of the Eighth Air Force on May 10, the ini- 
tial movement of personnel and materiel had already begun. Some potential 
organizational and command problems had also been solved. ABC-1 established 
the principle that the theater air forces of each nation would be treated as sepa- 
rate entities under the strategic direction and command of one of the Allies. 
Moreover, Amold gained Marshall's agreement that the U.S. Army in Britain 
would be organized along functional lines. Instead of dividing Britain into geo- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

graphically denominated corps or army areas, each composed of a force of all arms, 
the senior officers of the Army Ground Forces, the Army Air Forces, and the Army 
Services of Supply in the theater would command only their own branch and be 
directly subordinate to the theater commander. Arnold had hewn to one of the cardi- 
nal rules of air power: Air power must be concentrated to be most effective. Spaatz 
would command an air force composed of all air and aviation support units in the 
theater. Air components would not be split up and parceled out to army ground gen- 
erals in charge of subregions. This arrangement relieved the theater commander of 
the administrative and tactical details of operating an air force and provided flexibil- 
ity enough to accommodate the vast air armada then contemplated for deployment to 
Britain. The Headquarters of the Eighth Air Force, as the highest level AAF head- 
quarters in England, was therefore responsible for the theater's air power. 

The Eighth consisted of an air force headquarters and four subordinate com- 
mands, each carrying the number of the overall headquarters: VIII Bomber 
Command, VIII Fighter Command, VIII Air Support Command, and VIII Service 
Command. The composition of these commands corresponded to expected func- 
tions. The Vin Bomber Command, consisting of heavy-bombardment groups, each 
containing 32 aircraft, would carry out the operational aspects of the strategic 
bomber offensive. Later in the war, the Eighth's heavy-bombardment groups 
gained authorization for a front-line strength of 48 planes. The VIE Air Support 
Command, made up of the medium-bombardment groups, the light-bomber groups, 
and the dive-bomber groups (all of 52 planes each), would provide tactical support 
and interdiction for the ground troops invading France from England. The VUI 
Fighter Command, made up of the fighter groups (75-80 planes each), would 
escort, according to the situation and its range capabilities, the planes of either the 
Bomber Command or the Air Support Command. If required. Fighter Command 
could also join the Air Support Command in du-ect assistance to the ground troops. 
The functions of VIE Service Command included supply and maintenance of all 
items peculiar to the Air Force. As the size of the Air Force increased, additional 
echelons appeared between the commands and the groups. First came wings, 
formed of several groups. Next, for the heavy bombers only, came bombardment 
divisions containing three to five wings. 

Combat aircraft equipping the three fighting commands varied in quality from 
poor to excellent. The B-17E, although somewhat undergunned by later standards, 
outclassed any other daylight heavy bomber in the world. In addition to speed and 
high-altitude capability, the B-17E had a rugged construction that allowed it to 
absoib unbelievable amounts of batde damage and still retum to base. Variants of 
flie B-17 served as the backbone of the Eighth's bombers throughout the war. The 
B-17E had a combat radius of approximately 750 miles.* 

"* The combat radius is the straight distance a plane can fly from its base and retum. It takes into 
accoimt taxiing, taking off, forming up, and landing, and is calculated at 3/8 to 2/5 of the aircraft's 
rated range. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

The B-25 Mitchell medium bomber had a combat radius of about 500 miles 
and a bomb load of 3,000 pounds. It was usually operated at altitudes below 
20,000 feet and thus was unable to attack targets defended by heavy antiaircraft 
guns, which usually guarded strategic targets. It was sturdy and fairly heavily 

American fighters did not measure up to world standards. The P-39 
(Aircobra), although fast, lacked the maneuverability and altitude to contend 
with German fighters. It had a combat radius, allowing 10 minutes of combat, of 
150 miles. The P-40 (Warhawk) had a similar combat radius. But given proper 
tactics and disciplined pilots, it could hold its own against the German fighters at 
lower altitudes. By 1942, the AAF official history acknowledged its obsoles- 
cence.l5 The twin-engine P-38 (Lightning) was a good high-altitude heavy 
fighter with a combat radius more than double that of other American fighters. It 
could hold its own at high altitudes against German aircraft but its engines 
reacted badly to the unique combination of high humidity and extreme cold 
found over northwestern Europe during winter; it operated more satisfactorily in 
the wanner Mediterranean and the Pacific. 

Upon taking over command, Spaatz immediately began the final prepara- 
tions for sending the Eighth to England. Contrary to what one might suspect, the 
headquarters personnel of the Eighth Air Force did not consist of a group of elite 
officers hand-picked by Spaatz and Amold for their dedication to the ideals of 
daylight strategic bombardment. In fact, Spaatz had inherited the Eighth Air 
Force Headquarters because its previous assignment, preparing for a possible 
invasion of French North Africa, had lapsed, leaving it available for reassign- 
ment. The Eighth's former Commander, Col. Asa N. Duncan, became Spaatz's 
Chief of Staff, and Ehincan's staff continued its work for Spaatz. The new staff 
faced an abrupt change in focus from planning a tactical mission in support of a 
possible small-scale invasion to planning both the major ground support and the 
major strategic air campaigns of the American armed forces in Europe. Spaatz's 
staff faced a daunting challenge; in spite of the grandiose numbers and missions 
described in AWPD/1, the AAF appears to have done little operational plaiming 
for combat over Europe. In early April 1942, Maj. Henry Berliner, a personal 
friend of Spaatz and the Eighth Air Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, 
approached Col. Richard D'O. Hughes of the target planning section of the AAF 
Air Staff. Major Berliner admitted that Spaatz had sent him to find out if any 
serious planning existed concerning the Eighth's mission. Hughes shared target 
intelligence he had gathered and an impressed Berliner asked him to meet 
Spaatz the next day. At the meeting, Spaatz, as usual, said little, but he absorbed 
everything that Hughes related. A few days later General Marshall ordered the 
Eighth Air Force to prepare and to present to him in ten days a complete opera- 
tional plan. Berliner and his staff promptly appeared, hat in hand, at Hughes's 
door. Hughes noted, "they had none of them ever made an operational war plan 
before in their lives, none of them had had the opportunity to study the problems 


The Eighth Air Force 

involved, and a more scared and nervous bunch of officers I have seldom seen." 
Hughes agreed to help and within five days he prepared a slick and plausible 
plan. Shortly thereafter he found himself transferred permanently to Spaatz's 
headquarters. 16 

On May 10, Spaatz and Arnold met at Boiling Field to discuss the move- 
ment of the Eighth to Britain and Hughes's plan. Spaatz "expressed the hope 
that the force would not be stampeded into premature action by political pres- 
sures and other influences."!? He warned against exaggerating AAF strength 
and cautioned that he intended to operate on the basis of 100 percent reserves at 
all times, until the pipeline of replacement combat crews and machines had been 
put in place and filled. Spaatz wanted it understood that he would not begin 
combat operations until his force was ready. 18 

Four days later Spaatz and Marshall met, and Spaatz again presented his 
(and Hughes's) basic concept of operations. The Americans meant to draw the 
Luftwaffe into combat and destroy it in a battle of attrition. A great air force, as 
Spaatz had observed in England, could not be destroyed in one or two battles. 
He had seen how constant action had broken the German air offensive while 
bringing the British themselves to the brink of defeat. It would take months of 
constant bleeding of experienced pilots and loss of first-line machines to draw 
the sting of the Luftwaffe and make a cross-channel invasion possible. 19 

To force the Luftwaffe to come up and fight, the Americans intended to 
bomb targets of such economic or military importance that the Germans would 
have to defend them or lose the war. General Spaatz contended that "the full or 
partial destruction of Ploesti would force the enemy to defend many of those tar- 
gets now considered unimportant." Once Hitler's chief source of natural petroleum 
in Ploesti, Romania, dried up, the synthetic oil plants of the Reich would have to 
be defended or Germany would be helpless to fight a modem war. 20 

Given the Marshall Memorandum, tactical air plans for the European inva- 
sion ranked high on the agenda at this meeting. Marshall discussed the strength 
of Nazi defenses and the necessity of reducing them. He next turned to the need 
for air superiority over Allied preinvasion troop concentration points and asked 
what the AAF could do to counter night movement of enemy armored forma- 
tions. Marshall also expressed concern about the AAF's capability to protect the 
invasion areas. Spaatz, in turn, suggested that timely reconnaissance and prop- 
erly stationed planes would solve those problems. He defined for Marshall the 
difference between air superiority and air supremacy. Air superiority meant that 
the stronger force could operate with freedom but could not guarantee that the 
opposing air force would be unable to execute damaging air raids. Au- supremacy 
meant that the opposing air force would be completely unable to operate effec- 
tively. Spaatz emphasized that the cross-channel invasion required air supremacy 
before October, when bad weather would tie up the air arm and the plan. 
Marshall accepted a weather deadline of "early October" and asked Spaatz to 
brief Secretary Stimson.2l 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Henry L. Stimson, 
Secretary of War, 

The next day Spaatz explained his basic concepts a third time to the Secretary 
of War. Stimson noted that the strategic targets differed from those of AWPD/1. 
Spaatz replied that the original conceptions of AWPD/1 "involved the usage of 
Air Power — supported by ground forces," but that the present planning "in- 
volved Air Power — supporting ground forces [emphasis in original]." Spaatz 
then spoke of having two U.S. expeditionary air forces, one of which "would 
attack vital enemy industries and interior installations" while the second would 
"establish air supremacy over a limited area — ^permitting ground forces a neces- 
sary latitude to carry out the mission." Clearly, Spaatz conceived of two separate 
American expeditionary air forces — one strategic, one tactical. Both would 
operate under the same overall commander. Stimson promised his full support to 

On May 16, 1942, Spaatz and company terminated their series of confer- 
ences with nearly two hours of discussion with Maj. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, 
Jr., Marshall's personal representative, who was to leave shortly for a tour of 
Pacific combat zones. Richardson's task was to determine for the Chief of Staff 
the minimum amount of Army resources required to hold the line against Japan. 
This rationale would enable Marshall to devote the remainder of his forces 
against the more powerful foe in Europe. 

After the obligatory explanation of the basic concepts and exhortations 
against premature commitment, discussion turned to more technical matters of 


The Eighth Air Force 

General George C. 

MarshaU, Chief of Staff, 
U.S. Army, 1939-1945. 

compatibility of AAF and British equipment and of target selection. Spaatz men- 
tioned railroads, waterways, and troop concentrations. Richardson pointed out 
the importance of submarine production as a key target. Both generals discussed 
the effect of combined Anglo-American command on target selection and 
agreed that the Americans should retain the right to select their own targets. 
During the targeting discussions, Spaatz included German aircraft production, 
noting that the necessary rate of destruction would be twenty planes a day. With 
regard to fighter escorts for the bombers, Spaatz expressed the then standard 
AAF opinion on the defensive prowess of the B-17 as a gun platform.23 

Finally, discussion turned to methods of sending the Eighth to England. 
Spaatz presented a plan to fly the Eighth's aircraft over a Maine-Labrador- 
Iceland-England ferry route. Richardson was impressed, and as he departed, 
indicated that Marshall, too, had expressed great optimism about the plan's suc- 
cess. The key element of the plan was its provision of aircraft and crews in 
England as early as possible. Aircraft that arrived crated and disassembled via 
sea transport would need to be assembled and checked out. Their entry into 
combat would be thus delayed. Each B-17 heavy bomber would lead four P-38 
fighters. The flying of hundreds of planes across the relatively undeveloped 
North Atlantic route required detailed and accurate scheduling to assure the 
presence of vital supplies and navigation aids along the way. The plan also sacri- 
ficed future combat strength for immediate effect, because the inexperienced 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

crews ferrying the planes would suffer attrition at a fairly high rate, while all 
seaborne airplanes and crews would arrive intact, provided German submarines 
did not sink them. Once the route had been established, as it was later in the war, 
regular ferry crews, rather than combat crews, delivered the planes.24 

In these conferences Spaatz left no doubt in the minds of his superiors, mili- 
tary and civilian, about what he intended to do and how he meant to do it. The 
Eighth Air Force, when fully prepared and only then, would be hurled en masse 
against vital German targets that absolutely had to be defended by the Luftwaffe. 
The Luftwaffe would destroy hself on the guns of the Eighth' s bombers and, if 
possible, those of its short-range fighters. And as the battle of attrition continued 
in the air, the Eighth would also throttle the Luftwaffe on the ground by destroy- 
ing the aircraft production industry. This action would ensure air supremacy for 
the invasion of Europe and severely damage Germany's capacity to wage war. 

Spaatz's knowledge of the Luftwaffe's size, strength, and deployment came 
almost entirely from British intelligence. The AAF official history admitted, 
"When the war began, the AAF probably was more deficient in its provisions for 
intelligence than in any other phase of its activities." The same source also 
stated that the AAF remained dependent on British intelUgence for the combat 
status of the Luftwaffe and for target information for the balance of the war. 25 
The British possessed reasonably accurate reports on those matters in part 
because of their European intelligence network^^ and in part because of their 
breaking of top-secret German codes (known as the Ultra secret), especially 
those of the Luftwaffe. The breaking of the codes enabled the British to obtain 
accurate readiness, location, and order of battle information on Luftwaffe com- 
bat formations.* This information gave Spaatz confidence in his assumptions 
that the Germans would continue to deploy the bulk of their air power on the 
Eastern Front or Mediterranean. Furthermore, code breaking could give him 
quick warning of any change in enemy air plans. 

Spaatz's strategy, given the disposition of the Luftwaffe and the on-time 
delivery of the aircraft promised him, did not seem unreasonable. The Luftwaffe 
had between 4,000 and 4,400 front-line combat aircraft for most of 1942, 
60 percent of them deployed against Russia, a little less than 10 percent assigned 
to the night fighter defenses of Germany ,27 and a large contingent in the 
Mediterranean. Spaatz may have faced no more than 400 to 500 machines of all 
types, which gave a large statistical edge to his own initial strength of 512 heavy 
bombers and 225 fighters, plus the several thousand British bombers and fight- 
ers stationed in Britain. Any major German redeployment or upset of Spaatz's 
timetable would invalidate his calculations.28 Postwar examination of captured 
Luftwaffe records revealed that Spaatz faced a larger force than he had antici- 

* It is doubtful that in May 1942 the British were directly sharing the Ultra secret with the 
AAF. However, information derived from Ultra, but not attributed to it and suitably disguised, 
would have figured in the British appreciation of German air strength made available to Spaatz. 


The Eighth Air Force 

pated. German day fighters on the Western Front began the year numbering 292 
aircraft and ended the year numbering 453. In September, German day fighter 
strength reached a high of 574 and then dropped to 500 for the following two 

The most salient point of Spaatz's plans was the emphasis on destroying the 
Luftwaffe rather than on conducting a strategic bombing campaign against the 
German war economy. Spaatz would strike at important economic targets pri- 
marily to force the Luftwaffe to defend them and only secondarily to damage 
German production. He apparently muted his own beliefs in the effectiveness of 
strategic bombing in order to present to Marshall and Stimson views more in 
keeping with the role of the Eighth Air Force as only one part of the U.S. forces 
to be employed against Germany. To concentrate on strategic bombing at the 
expense of tactical air operations in support of U.S. ground units would hardly 
have persuaded his listeners of the AAF's willingness to join the combined-arms 
team envisaged for Europe. Lack of cooperation may have cost Stimson's and 
Marshall's support for AAF logistics priorities. Or, practical as always, Spaatz 
may well have realized that the destruction of the Luftwaffe was a necessary 
preamble to the freeing of American air power to conduct both strategic and tac- 
tical operations at will. 

On May 21, Spaatz learned of the first of the diversions of strength that 
eventually hamstrung the Eighth's ability to engage in an effective strategic 
bombing campaign in 1942. Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief of the 
U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), insisted that the Eighth divert 
four B-17Es to the defense of Alaska. Spaatz, unaware that King had foreknowl- 
edge (thanks to the breaking of Japanese naval codes) of the upcoming Midway 
Island campaign, viewed the action with a jaundiced eye. Such withdrawals, in 
his opinion, were merely the entering wedge of a whole series of possible diver- 
sions that could only hinder the creation of a stable air force.30 Spaatz com- 
plained about the diversion of the B-17s to Alaska; he strongly protested the 
dissipation of his force and the disruption of his movement to England. In the 
interest of safety, Spaatz said he could not allow the B-17s to shepherd more 
than four fighters each across the Atlantic. Arnold regretted the diversion of the 
B-17s but insisted that "certain pressure" (King) made it necessary.^' 

Later that morning Spaatz met with Arnold and Maj. Gen. Millard F. 
Harmon, Spaatz's successor as Chief of the Air Staff. The three analyzed a letter 
Spaatz had just received from Eaker expressing "the opinion that the R.A.F. 
would attempt the dispersal of our units and absorb them within the British 
Command."32 Because both parties accepted the assumption that the U.S. bomb- 
ing force would operate semiautonomously, this dispute centered on the control 
and basing of U.S. fighters. During the ABC talks in January and February 1941 
and in a final report of March 27, 1941, the Americans had agreed to undertake 
the air defense of the bases of U.S. naval imits in British waters and of certain 
other areas as well.33 In the summer of 1941, the Air Ministry and the U.S. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Observer Group made concrete plans to station U.S. pursuit groups in Northern 
Ireland, with the clear intention of having the Americans assume full responsi- 
bility for the air defense of that sector. The Observer Group further agreed to 
allow individual pursuit squadrons to gain operational experience by working 
with British units in different sectors of the British air defense network.34 

The rapid buildup of tactical air forces required by the Marshall Memoran- 
dum and the AAF's intention of building up a large strategic bombing force led 
the Americans to change their opinion on the proper basing for the pursuits. 
Arnold expounded the new strategy to Portal in mid- April 1942. In order to gain 
air supremacy over Europe and to divert the Luftwaffe from the Russian front, 
Arnold said, the United States and Britain would have to concentrate the greatest 
mass of aircraft as soon as possible in England. Because night bombing alone 
could not wear the Germans down in time for the cross-channel invasion, day- 
light bombing must resume. In its first stages, daylight bombing would necessi- 
tate a large force of fighter escorts to hold down losses from enemy fighters. 
Once the day bombers had gained greater defensive firepower and perfected for- 
mation flying, they would extend their attacks beyond the range of their fighter 
escorts.35 American pursuit units would have to have fields close to the French 
beaches and within escort range of their bombers. 

This new policy encountered British opposition. When Maj. Gen. James E. 
Chaney, head of the U.S. Observer Group in Britain, presented Arnold's new 
plan to the British on May 8, the head of Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshal 
Sholto Douglas, insisted that U.S. fighters become part of the British integrated 
air defense establishment, the Air Defense of Great Britain (ADGB).36 Chaney 
replied that his instructions were to limit the use of U.S. fighters to bomber 
escort and invasion support. The British appealed to the RAF Delegation in 
Washington to explain the British position to Arnold. It was not possible "to 
accept for operational training in the front line between 200 and 300 American 
fighters without V.H.F. [radios] or I.F.F. or any knowledge of routing and recog- 
nition or flying control or, in fact, of any procedure at all." In the event of an 
enemy raid, "the Americans could not cross their fingers and say they were not 
playing. They must take their share in the defence of what was in fact an Anglo- 
American air base." 

In a reply that the Air Ministry found most unsatisfactory, the RAF Dele- 
gation said, "You are up against a very strong determination on the part of 
Arnold, Spaatz, and others to concentrate the training and employment of their 
forces in the U.K. entirely upon proving the daylight bombing offensive can be 
made a success." Attempts to explain the technical difficulties to Spaatz in par- 
ticular had failed, but the RAF Delegation thought that he might come to accept 
universal fighter control once he reached Britain and experienced those difficul- 
ties. The delegation warned that the Americans would not easily be turned from 
their determination to use their pursuits primarily as escorts.3'7 

On May 12, Chaney delivered a new proposal asking to put two fighter groups 


The Eighth Air Force 

on fields near U.S. bombers (in the Huntingdon area) and to delay the arrival of an 
additional five groups. Portal rejected it. The delay jeopardized the Marshall 
Memorandum objectives. The plan to occupy Northern Ireland had already 
gained the approval of the Combined Chiefs of Staff; moreover, the RAF had no 
objection to the proposal that the primary task of the U.S. fighters be offensive 
and had already offered cooperation in the early stages of the bomber offensive. 
Portal insisted, however, that U.S. pursuit units in RAF sectors have not only 
offensive tasks but convoy escort and air defense duties as well. The Chief of 
the Air Staff proposed that the United States eventually take over British No. 12 
Group's sector, the second most important sector for the defense of eastern 
Britain and the sector defending the U.S. bomber bases.38 The issue remained at 
an impasse until Arnold's visit to Britain at the end of May 1942, to discuss the 
reallocation of U.S. aircraft production with the British. 

While in Britain, Arnold apparently agreed to station the first two and the 
last U.S. fighter groups in the Huntingdon area and the second two in Northern 
Ireland. British sources state that he further agreed to the fitting of one fighter 
squadron into each active RAF Fighter Sector (to gain operational experience) 
and to the eventual takeover of the Northern Ireland and other group sectors.39 
Given Arnold's subsequent instructions to Spaatz, which forbade the integration 
of U.S. fighters into British air defense schemes, either Arnold changed his mind 
or the British assumed agreement where there was none. 

While Arnold preceded him to London, Spaatz, with what must have been a 
sense of relief, left the round of conferences in Washington to supervise the 
overseas movement of his forces. On May 23, he flew to Fort Dix in New Jersey 
and inspected all units. From there he motored to Mitchel Field in New York 
City, and, on May 25, he flew into Grenier Field in New Hampshire. His com- 
mand's aircraft had already started to arrive — 57 P-39s and 3 B-17s. By May 28, 
the total had risen to 76 P-39s and 17 B-17s, with an additional 78 P-38s at Dow 
Field in Bangor, Maine, and 31 transports at Westover Field in Massachusetts.^^ 

The next three days were taken up by meetings with Maj. Gen. Harold L. 
George, the head of Ferry Command, who controlled the ferry route itself, not 
the planes traveling through it; Maj. Gen. Sherman Miles, the Army Corps Area 
Commander for New England; and Col. Howard A. Craig of the Air Staff. 
George agreed that Ferry Command had the responsibility for the proper func- 
tioning of the movement route and would estabUsh communications and provide 
housing, supplies, and weather reports. General Miles agreed to provide groimd 
security. Spaatz said that the Eighth could provide its own air defense.41 

On June 1, Spaatz began his flight for Prestwick, Scotland, the first leg of 
which ended at Presque Isle.42 Thanks to the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, 
the trip to Scotland took seventeen days. On the evening of June 1, as Spaatz, 
George, and Craig worked to perfect plans, they received a priority call from 
Brig. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter relaying orders from Marshall to halt all movement. 
Midway had claimed its first casualty — the Eighth's departure for England. At 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

8:30 P.M. Kuter issued orders placing all units on six-hour alert for movement to 
the West Coast, where they would pass to the control of the Fourth Air Force.^^ 
Spaatz relayed the changes to his subordinates and ordered the transports to 
Presque Isle to unload 80,000 pounds of supplies and then to comply with War 
Department orders. By June 3, Spaatz had returned to the District of Columbia. 

Victory at Midway unscrambled the Eighth's plans. On June 6 and 11, the 
1st Fighter Group and 97th Heavy Bombardment Group returned to Spaatz's 
control. He escaped Washington on June 10 and arrived at Grenier Field that 
evening. Winging into Presque Isle by 1 1:30 the next morning, Spaatz inspected 
each item covered in his previous visit.44 On June 12, Spaatz tried twice to fly 
the 569 miles to Goose Bay, but thunderstorms and icy conditions forced him to 
turn back. Communications remained unsatisfactory. Weather and communica- 
tions failed to cooperate on June 13 as well. Frustrated, Spaatz wired Arnold to 
send "the best communications expert in the country" to Presque Isle at once. 
On June 14, Spaatz landed in Goose Bay — two hours ahead of his staff. Despite 
more unfavorable weather reports, Spaatz wished to get a first-hand idea of the 
difficulties involved in the 776-mile flight to Bluie West I (B.W.I.) Field, 
Greenland, so he pushed on to Greenland on June 15. Once there, he received a 
wire from Arnold asking when the first contingent would start for Britain. 
Spaatz replied that the B-17s not needed for escorting fighters or for weather 
patrols would start at once; the 1st Pursuit Group could start in a week. On June 
17, Spaatz's party flew the 779 miles to Reykjavik, Iceland. They completed the 
last leg (884 miles) to Prestwick on June 18.45 

Spaatz alighted at Prestwick to the greetings of Brig. Gen. Ira Eaker, who 
had done a thorough job in preparing Britain for the initial presence of the AAF. 
Soon after his arrival on February 20, 1942, Eaker had set up the first AAF 
headquarters in Europe. He then proceeded to RAF Bomber Command Head- 
quarters, where he began studies of its staff procedures. Next, he drafted recom- 
mendations for training, equipment, and employment of U.S. imits. He found 
time to examine British airfields intended for American use, to present a plan for 
reception and assignment of bombers, to prepare a scheme for supply and 
administration of such units, and to take appropriate steps toward close coordi- 
nation of effort with the RAF. On February 22, two days after Eaker arrived at 
Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshal Arthm- T. Harris replaced Air Marshal 
Richard Peirse. 

On June 19, Spaatz and Eaker motored to London to pay a call on the U.S. 
theater commander, Maj. Gen. Chaney. (The next day Maj. Gen. Eisenhower 
relieved Chaney and assumed command of the European Theater of Operations 
[ETO].) The two airmen then called on the American ambassador, John G. 
Winant, a great air enthusiast who had been a Navy pilot in World War I. He 
wished to visit all of the Eighth's installations. Spaatz invited Winant to accom- 
pany him on his first inspection trip. Before completing his last call of the day, 
on Portal, Chief of the RAF Air Staff, Spaatz held a press conference. Unlike 


The Eighth Air Force 

current press conferences, those of World War II tended to be mannerly, with 
newspaper men throwing slow pitches and off-the-record comments staying off 
the record. Spaatz did well. Quentin Reynolds, Drew Middleton, Ed Beattie, and 
the rest of the press corps liked Spaatz's straightforward answers as well as his 
honest desire to stay out of the limelight. The correspondents honored Spaatz's 
request that his presence in the British Isles not be mentioned. In that, they had 
no choice. Strict U.S. military censors subjected all news stories to their flinty- 
eyed gaze before release, pruning them of information valuable to the enemy. If 
Spaatz could keep his presence secret a while longer, perhaps the Germans 
might be less prepared for the AAF's first raids. Perhaps more important, the 
American public might be less inclined to demand immediate action if it 
remained unaware of the Eighth's arrival in Britain.46 

On June 20, Spaatz held a full-scale staff conference at High Wycombe. After 
a complete briefing, he set the tone for his command. First, he complimented 
Eaker for "his splendid work and accepted any commitments made by him in 
toto." He stressed the necessity for a "pleasant" relationship between his staff and 
the British. "The 8th must do well," he noted, "otherwise our prestige would suffer 
at home as well as with the British who depend on the U.S. effort." Spaatz ended 
on a cautionary note. The Eighth should take advantage of British experience, not 
British tactics. The B-17s and daytime operations must start under fighter escort 
and not count on their own firepower until they had to make penetrations beyond 
escort range.4V Spaatz's remarks about the defensive power of the B-I7s demon- 
strated, at this point, more concem about lack of numbers, skill at formation fly- 
ing, and gunnery training than any lack of faith in the ability of the B-I7s to 
conduct unescorted deep penetration missions. He would need his fighters for the 
early shallow penetrations and for supporting the upcoming invasion. 

For the next two weeks Spaatz threw himself into the task of preparing a 
logistics and base structure for his command capable of sustaining the Eighth for 
a prolonged campaign. (See Map 2, Eighth Air Force Installations, 1942.) He 
flew all over England and Ireland, laying the groundwork for large-scale air 
force repair and supply depots. These large facilities would serve as the back- 
bone of the Eighth's logistics efforts. They would be the first recipients of new 
planes and supplies from the United States and would condition them for dis- 
patch to the combat units. In addition, they would handle complex repairs and 
overhauls beyond the capacity of the forward depots assigned to the combat 
groups. Spaatz reported to Arnold that by January 1, 1943, he would have 3 mil- 
lion square feet of storage for air supplies, which would enable the depots to 
operate at full capacity. These main depots would require at least 25,000 addi- 
tional personnel. Spaatz also planned for 20 forward supply depots to serve the 
combat groups.48 Kay Summersby, Spaatz's British driver during the summer of 
1942 and later General Eisenhower's driver and confidante, remembered Spaatz 
at this time as a "serious man, serious to the point of grimness, and certainly the 
hardest working man in the whole U.S. Army Air Force [sic]."^^ 


The Eighth Air Force 

The first bottleneck Spaatz encountered was the shortage of labor and con- 
struction supplies in the British Isles. The British, although willing to help, 
found difficulty in squeezing either commodity out of their overstrained war 
economy. At one point, when Air Marshal Christopher Courtney, the RAF's 
chief supply officer, humorously promised that the bases for the first six groups 
would be ready on time even if they lacked "plush chairs," Spaatz replied that 
his units would sleep in tents if necessary.50 

Next, Spaatz traveled to Northern Ireland to inspect newly created Eighth 
Air Force training facilities. He planned to set up a training command to give a 
final polish to newly arrived combat crews from the United States.5i The British 
agreed to hand over seven airfields and a headquarters facility. On July 4, 1942, 
the AAF activated the Eighth Air Force Composite Command at Boiling Field in 
Washington, D.C.,52 which was soon transferred to Ireland. Spaatz knew full 
well that Amold would send him crews as soon as they could make the trip — 
well before they had finished their training. 

Two factors prevented this training command fix)m completing its mission: (1) 
the scarcity of active U.S. combat formations (new groups were sent into combat 
very soon after arrival, before their training could be enhanced) and, by midsum- 
mer 1943, (2) the higher training level of arriving groups. In fact, because of diver- 
sions to North Africa and elsewhere, combat crews did not arrive in Northern 
Ireland for training until September 1943. The few replacements reaching the 
Eighth were easily handled at one of the two AAF training fields in England.53 
The Eighth disbanded the training command by the end of 1943. 

The aircraft needed for operations arrived after a painfully slow journey over 
the ferry route. The first two, a B-17 bomber and a C-47 transport, arrived on 
July 2. Six days later a grand total of eight B-17s, seven P-38s, and five C-47s 
had arrived. Spaatz's reception plans for his forces were not helped by constant 
changes in the number of aircraft scheduled for the theater. By June 19, 
Arnold's original promise of February had grown by one heavy-bomber group 
(32 bombers), nine fighter groups (675 fighters), six medium- and six light- 
bomber groups (624 planes), eight transport groups (480 transports), and four 
observation groups (144 planes). Many of these additional 2,000 aircraft were 
intended to provide support for the cross-channel invasion.54 Subsequent strate- 
gic decisions sending groups to the Pacific or to North Africa caused numerous 
delays in the planned shipments for England. Not until July 27, 1943, did the 
Eighth report a strength of sixteen heavy bomber groups — the original figure 
promised by Amold in February 1942.55 

Establishing the Autonomy of the Eighth Air Force 

Aside from the primary task of readying his force and deploying it in battle, 
Spaatz had to establish the autonomy of the AAF in England, not from the U.S. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Army — whose overall leader in Britain, Eisenhower, faithfully adhered to the 
agreements allowing the Eighth to operate as a whole — but from the Royal Air 
Force. The RAF, at this stage in the war, was far larger than the AAF in Britain 
and incomparably more experienced. The RAF had committed itself to night 
bombing because its own operations had shown that daylight bombing raids 
against Luftwaffe-defended targets produced unacceptable losses of men and 
machines. Therefore, the RAF wanted the Americans to abandon their attempt to 
bomb in daylight and to join with them in night raids. Initially, at least, the 
British also wanted to employ U.S. fighters to augment their own air defenses. 

On June 22, Spaatz paid an informal call on Rear Adm. St. G. Lyster, British 
Chief of the Naval Air Staff. Lyster suggested U.S. fighter protection for British 
shipping, a suggestion that Spaatz resisted. His fighters' primary function was 
U.S. bomber protection, and the instructions given to him from Arnold through 
Eisenhower were clear: U.S. fighters would not "be integrated with British 
fighter units employed in the defense of the United Kingdom, or into the British 
Fighter Command. "56 

The following day Spaatz and Eaker drove to RAF Fighter Command to 
confer with Air Chief Marshal Sholto Douglas.57 Spaatz again emphasized that 
the primary function of U.S. fighters was to support U.S. bombers. He did con- 
cede, however, that his fighters would be trained in air defense procedures to 
assist the RAF in the unlikely event that it could not cope with a renewed 
German air offensive against Britain. Douglas suggested that the most expedi- 
tious way to acquaint American pilots with operations was to blend U.S. 
squadrons with British wings until they learned procedures. Spaatz agreed to 
consider this suggestion. Next, Douglas "expressed the hope that eventually the 
U.S. Air Forces would take over an entire sector. "58 Spaatz pointed out that the 
Americans would then have to assume responsibility for the air defense of that 
sector. Douglas admitted "that if U.S. forces did take over a sector, U.S. Air 
Forces might be called upon to furnish Fleet Arm protection."59 Spaatz deferred 
his decision. 

He continued his delaying tactics on other occasions during the summer 
when the RAF again made tentative attempts to gain closer operational control 
of the AAF in Britain. On July 7, Douglas repeated his attempt to pin down 
Spaatz on sector air defense. Finally, on July 15, Eisenhower and Spaatz met 
with Douglas and Slessor and obtained British agreement to the principle "that 
the integrity of the 8th Air Force must be maintained in any organizational set- 
up — ^but there was no objection to all Air Powers being under one Command. "60 
If not in this meeting, then at some time during the summer, Spaatz made sub- 
stantial concessions to the British. He allowed the attachment of his fighter 
squadrons to British groups for final training and acclimatization and agreed to 
the eventual assumption of control of British sector and group areas.61 Spaatz 
might well have taken the calculated risk that the integration of his fighters both 


The Eighth Air Force 

Air Chief Marshal 
Sholto Douglas, Air 
Officer Commanding, 
Fighter Command, 
RAF, 1942. 

offensively and defensively into the British air control network would be a lia- 
bility only if the Germans launched attacks on Britain — a possibility that he dis- 
counted. Spaatz probably did not object to the responsibility for the air defense 
of his own fields, if needed. In return, he gained a well-functioning control net- 
work with which to coordinate his own operations. In any case, Spaatz's accom- 
modation became unnecessary with the unanticipated transfer of all his active 
fighter groups* to the North African operation, and it came too late to head off 
unfavorable press reports. One, which appeared on the front page of ttie August 
8 issue of the New York Times, began, "The widely advocated British-American 
air offensive against Germany is not being carried on because of British- 
American inability to agree on methods or objectives."62 The article added that 
British air officers doubted the ability of U.S. heavy bombers "to do the job." 
Instead, according to the Times, the British wanted the Americans to build night 
bombers. Although the American and British publics may have failed to grasp 
the import of the RAF's suggestion, professional air officers knew that the 
AAF's switch to night bombing would bring the entire American air effort xmder 
total British control. Three days later the New York Times printed Spaatz's 
rebuttal on page two.^3 He asserted that the dispersal of men and planes dictated 

* The Eighth did retain the British-Gained ex-RAF Eagle squaxlrons just transferted to its con- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

by strategy, bad weather, and the necessity of putting American crews through 
advanced operational training — not disagreement over tactics — had delayed the 
start of the joint air offensive. 

The opening of Park House, where Spaatz and most of his staff lived and 
took their meals, allowed him to entertain high-ranking RAF officers in comfort 
and privacy. Spaatz also visited them often at their offices or over a working 
lunch. On occasion, his diary recorded the subject of discussion. On August 8, 
for example, he and Air Chief Marshal Wilfred Freeman, Vice-Chief of the Air 
Staff, "conferred" on the transfer of the Eagle Squadrons — fighter squadrons 
composed of American citizens who had joined the RAF to fight the Nazis 
before Pearl Harbor— from the RAF to the AAF. (In September the three 
squadrons of combat-experienced pilots became part of the Eighth Air Force, 
forming the 4th Fighter Group.)64 Between August 11 and 21, Spaatz saw Air 
Vice-Marshal Norman H. Bottomley, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Opera- 
tions), five times.65 Although some of their conversations must have centered 
on coordination for the first U.S. heavy-bomber raid on August 17, Bottomley 
was the officer, subject to Portal's and possibly Churchill's approval, who 
defined operations. If he accepted operational independence for the AAF, the 
goal was three-quarters gained. 

Bottomley and Spaatz had lunch on August 1 1 and dinner at Park House on 
August 13 for a preliminary round of negotiations. Five days later, probably 
after both sides had reviewed the original scheme, the two met again. The next 
day Spaatz sent Bottomley a letter, perhaps a draft proposal, and the two dined 
that evening at Park House.66 Although speculative, this scenario fits with sub- 
sequent events. 

On August 20, Spaatz forwarded to Eisenhower a draft proposal on Anglo- 
American operations. The same day, in light of the commencement of active 
U.S. operations on August 17, the Eighth Air Force and the Air Ministry 
together held the first of a series of weekly meetings to discuss operational ques- 
tions. At the first two meetings, both attended by Spaatz and chaired by Slessor, 
the chief order of business was consideration of a joint U.S.-British directive on 
daylight bomber operations involving fighters. 67 Modifications to suit both 
staffs and the approval of Eisenhower and the British resulted in the promulga- 
tion, on September 8, of the "Joint American /British Directif [sic] on Day 
Bomber Operations Involving Fighter Co-operation." 

The joint directive divided the development of the day bomber offensive 
into three successive phases and provided command procedures for implement- 
ing each. In phase 1, U.S. bombers would fly with combined U.S.-British fighter 
cover. In phase 2, U.S. fighters would escort the bombers while the British sup- 
plied diversions and withdrawal cover. In phase 3, the AAF would operate inde- 
pendently in cooperation with the RAF, a phrase ambiguous enough to allow the 
AAF complete control over its own operations. The directive did, however, 
imply U.S. coordination and adjustment of operational intentions with British 


The Eighth Air Force 

air control plans. The joint directive effectively laid to rest the question of inte- 
gration of U.S. forces into the RAF.68 Spaatz had convinced the RAF that the 
AAF should retain its operational integrity. 

Although Spaatz had fended off too close an embrace from the RAF, the 
"Joint Directif," at least in the minds of the RAF's top leaders, merely allowed 
the AAF to continue its experiment in daylight bombing.69 The British, as the 
New York Times had implied, did not believe it would succeed. Portal flatly pre- 
dicted failure. On September 26, 1942, he stated to Archibald Sinclair, the 
Secretary of State for Air, with remarkable accuracy the conditions the U.S. 
strategic bombers would face in October 1943: 

The Americans will eventually be able to get as far as the Ruhr, suffering very 
much heavier casualties than we now suffer by night, and going much more 
rarely. They will in effect do area bombing with the advantage of the absence 
of decoys. If it can be kept up in face of the losses (and I don't think it will be), 
this will of course be a valuable contribution to the war, but it will certainly not 
result in the elimination of the enemy fighter force and so open the way to the 
free bombing of the rest of Germany. I do not think that they will ever be able 
to regularly penetrate further than the Ruhr or perhaps Hamburg without abso- 
lutely prohibitive losses resulting from being run out of ammunition or from 
gunners being killed or wounded.™ 

Called Peter by his close associates, Portal was the youngest of the Combined 
British and American Chiefs of Staff. He had begun his military career m 1914 as 
a motorcycle dispatch rider. A year later he joined the Royal Flying Corps, eammg 
a Distinguished Flying Cross and shooting down several German aircraft before 
the end of the war. Between the wars he served as Commander, British Forces, 
Aden; as instructor at the Imperial Defense College; and as Director of 
Organization on the Air Staff. Personally somewhat remote and cool, he nonethe- 
less established excellent working relationships with Spaatz, Eaker, Arnold, and 
Eisenhower. The British Chiefs of Staff and Churchill respected him for his strate- 
gic ability and brilliant intellect. Because he was virtually unflappable, he could 
weather the storms of Churchill's fanciful military ideas, often hurled with insult- 
ing vehemence by the Prime Minister at the Chiefs of Staff, and temper those ideas 
with wisdom. Portal worked exceedingly long and hard hours during the war, leav- 
ing behind him a voluminous official, but scant personal, correspondence. 

Despite his sincere doubts about U.S. daylight bombing policy, which he 
beheved would delay the Americans' eventual and necessary conversion to night 
bombing until 1944 or later, he loyally supported the AAF's determination to 
build up the largest possible force in Britain. Always a realist, he probably 
accepted the political fact that the Americans were so wedded to daylight bomb- 
ing that only repeated setbacks and not advice could divorce them from it. He 
may also have recognized that vocal opposition to daylight operations could 
only work against British interests in the long run. Any undermining of the AAF 
buildup would result in the dispersal of units slated for Britain to other theaters. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Early Operations 

Even as Spaatz fended off the British with one hand, he had to use the other 
to restrain Arnold. Arnold wanted AAF aircraft operating from Britain against 
the Germans as soon as possible. He had promised Churchill action by July 4, 
nine days before Spaatz arrived in Britain.^l As Commanding General of the 
AAF, Arnold naturally had priorities very different from those of the leader of a 
combat air force like the Eighth. Arnold had to justify AAF appropriations to the 
President, the Congress, and the public. In addition, he had to maintain AAF 
production and strategic priorities in the face of challenges from the British and 
the U.S. Navy. All this required a perception of the AAF as a successful and 
aggressive weapon actively being used against the enemy. 

In the summer of 1942, the AAF's image needed bolstering. Navy air had 
won at Midway while the public still wondered about Army air's performance at 
Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines. Furthermore, Amold knew that Roosevelt 
wanted to see results from the AAF which would justify the massive aircraft 
production program and shipping priorities slanted toward the projection of air 
power. On June 28, Spaatz received orders from Amold to schedule a raid for 
Independence Day. Because his B-17s had not yet arrived and his 31st Fighter 
Group had just received its unfamiliar Spitfires, he chose a squadron of light 
bombers assigned to the VIII Air Support Command. The unit had landed in 
Britain months earlier as part of a token U.S. force. Spaatz and Eaker viewed the 
raid as a premature commitment. 

The results, from Spaatz's viewpoint, justified his counsel against forcing 
action too early. The morning of July 4 six American crews and six British 
crews, ail in RAF Boston Bombers and all flying in a joint formation, with the 
Americans in relatively protected positions, attacked German airfields in 
Holland. Two of the planes with American crews were downed and two more 
failed to reach their target. The attacks inflicted little damage. From Arnold's 
point of view, however, the raid was successful. Not only had Americans been 
bloodied, but one of their pilots had heroically managed to bring home his 
severely damaged plane. Capt. Charles C. Kegelman was promptly promoted to 
major and awarded the first Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) earned by a 
member of the Eighth Air Force. British and American papers gave the story of 
the raid headline treatment. To complete the episode Spaatz personally pinned 
the DSC on Kegelman on July 11. His command diary sourly noted, "The cam- 
eramen and newspapermen finally got what they wanted — and everybody 
seemed contented."^^ But not Amold, who continued to press Spaatz for more 
AAF action and publicity. 

Spaatz not only had to meet Arnold's demands, he had to satisfy Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, the new head of the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Spaatz 
and Eisenhower had not known each other well before their current assignments. 
They had crossed paths only three times — once at West Point, where Eisenhower 


The Eighth Air Force 

Air Chief Marslial 
Charles A. Portal, Chief 
of the Air Staff, RAF, 

graduated a year after Spaatz, in 1915; again in Washington, D.C., from 1933 to 
1935, when Spaatz served in the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps and 
Eisenhower was in the Office of the Chief of Staff; and, finally, during the first 
six months of the war, when both men had served in high Army and AAF staff 
positions. Although the new theater commander was not an air enthusiast, he 
was much less closed-minded about the AAF than many staff and ground offi- 
cers; he even had a private pilot's license. Marshall had selected him for his cur- 
rent position and had p'omoted him to lieutenant general. Eisenhower had spent 
the previous seven months working hand in hand with the Chief of Staff as head 
of the Operations Division of the War Department's General Staff and had pre- 
pared the Marshall Memorandum, which set out the invasion plans for north- 
western Europe agreed to by the Anglo-American Allies. Having written the 
plan, he would now execute it. 

On June 26, Spaatz had his first appointment with his new commanding offi- 
cer. It was the start of an effective, close, working relationship that did much to 
advance the cause of the Allies and, to a lesser extent, the AAF. This first meet- 
ing proved typical. Spaatz agreed to notify Eisenhower one week before his 
units were scheduled for combat or to telephone him at any time day or night 
that AAF units entered combat. Eisenhower, as the officer responsible for con- 
ducting the amphibious assault on the Continent, was naturally concerned that 
vm Air Support Command (Vm ASC) had not yet set up its headquarters in 


Spaatz and the Am War in Europe 

Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz congratulating newly-promoted Maj. Charles C. 
Kegelman to whom he hais just awarded the first Distinguished Service Cross 
earned by a member of the Eighth Air Force. 

Britain. Spaatz sent a cable "asking for Colonel [Robert C] Candee to get here 
immediately with Air Support Headquarters." Then Spaatz and Eisenhower 
agreed to locate VIII ASC Headquarters at Maj. Gen. Mark W. Clark's II Corps 
Headquarters. In this they adhered to the essential principle of co-location of a 
tactical air headquarters with the headquarters of the ground unit it supported. 
Clark's II Corps Headquarters commanded all Army Ground Forces in 
Eisenhower's theater and was scheduled to have direct tactical control at the 
invasion beachhead.^3 

Spaatz did not walk away empty-handed from his first meeting with 
Eisenhower. He obtained support for his position against the British on the role 
of U.S. fighter aircraft in England. In a letter to Arnold dated the day of the 
meeting, Eisenhower confided: 

We intend to insist that the American squadrons should be looked upon as an 
offensive force with the result that our fighter squadrons will be fully engaged 
fighting over hostile territory. If we are going to provoke a fight, we have got 
to have the close support units to fight with, and they must not be worn out by 
keeping them on regular alerts.'''* 

Apparently Spaatz had drawn Eisenhower's attention to the fact that any 


The Eighth Air Force 

Eighth Air Force fighter assigned to air defense over England and naval support 
over the English Channel might be a fighter unavailable for tactical air missions 
over a beachhead. 

The Spaatz-Eisenhower relationship eventually grew into what Spaatz later 
termed "a rather close personal relationship, and I think on both sides that 
mutual confidence made it unnecessary to have long detailed explanations for 
courses of action. "75 From July 1 to October 31, 1942, the two generals "con- 
ferred," to use the term employed in Spaatz's Command Diary, fifty-five times. 

On June 26, after dinner at High Wycombe, Spaatz, Eaker, Winant, and Air 
Chief Marshal Harris retired to Eaker' s apartment for drinks and discussion. 
Harris had met Spaatz and come to a first-name basis with him during a trip to 
the United States as a member of a British purchasing commission in 1938, and 
again when he headed the permanent RAF Delegation to the United States in 
late 1941. That evening Spaatz and Harris agreed that, given 5,000 bombers, 
they could end the war in three months. When Winant pointed out that current 
production schedules should soon supply that force, Spaatz noted that attrition, 
operational damage, and commitments to other theaters had significantly altered 
the situation. As Spaatz's Command Diary narrated, Spaatz and Harris disagreed 
at only one point. Spaatz "contended that the war could not end until the Allies 
gained a foothold on some point now occupied by Germany, and operated from 
that territory against the enemy." Harris insisted that "a prolonged bombing of 
the enemy's vital industry alone could finish the job." Placing troops on occu- 
pied soil meant supporting them, thereby jeopardizing other operations. Harris 
also raised the possibility of another Dunkirk disaster. Spaatz replied that "no 
such effort should be attempted until the Allies were certain of the results and 
that the propitious moment was only when and if the Allies gain complete 
SUPREMACY [sic] in the air."76 

This discussion neatly summarized the differences between these two great 
practitioners of strategic bombing: Spaatz, the flexible, pragmatic disciple of 
Billy Mitchell, who, despite his belief that strategic bombing alone could defeat 
Germany, also anticipated and accepted having a large percentage of his force 
assigned to tactical air missions supporting an invasion of France; and Harris, 
the inflexible student of the great British air power advocate, Trenchard, who 
insisted in the face of all opposition that his bombers could win if he was given a 
chance to prove it. Almost two years later, when the two men actually had 5,000 
bombers between them, they would find themselves unable to end the war 
within their self-imposed deadline, perhaps because diversions prevented them 
from applying the full effort of their bombers. 

In June 1942, Spaatz and Harris had much in common. Both had received 
their commands in February, and neither led a large force. Spaatz hoped to have 
at least 500 modem heavy bombers by January 1, 1943. Harris, despite taking 
great risks to get 1,000 bombers in the air for a raid over Cologne, hoped to have 
a similar number. Harris had mounted this large raid only by including 370 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

aircraft and their half-trained crews from his operational training units and by 
having his regular units put up every bomber airframe they had, including sec- 
ond-line aircraft.77 When he took charge, he found a total operational force of 
only 374 medium and heavy bombers, of which only 44 were four-engine 
Lancaster heavy bombers — ^the mainstay of the British night-bomber campaignJ^ 

Harris also found a new directive for operations, dated February 14, 1942, 
which authorized him to employ his effort "without further restriction" in a cam- 
paign whose primary objective "focused on the morale of the enemy civil popu- 
lation and in particular, of the industrial workers." This directive continued a 
policy first enunciated in a directive of July 9, 1941, which called for attacks 
against civilian morale and the inland transportation system in Germany. The 
Air Ministry issued the February directive to take advantage of a newly devel- 
oped radio navigational aid, Gee, which promised greater accuracy in night 
bombing of targets within its range, 350 miles from Mildenhall. The accuracy of 
the system varied from 0.5 mile to 5 miles.79 Targets within range included 
Germany's chief industrial area (the Ruhr) and the coastal ports of Bremen, 
Wilhelmshaven, and Emden.^o 

The bombing of Germany to reduce the morale of its civilian population, 
especially the work force, which emphasized the targeting of city centers rather 
than precision targets and the use of large numbers of incendiary bombs, became 
an idee fixe with Harris. He had observed how the RAF had scattered its effort in 
vain attempts to bomb the Germans' transportation system, synthetic oil indus- 
try, and capital ships at Brest, From these failures he drew firm conclusions that 
Bomber Command lacked the accuracy to destroy precision targets and that any 
attempt to divert his forces to such targets should be resisted at all costs. He 
dubbed plans that promised to end the war by knocking out a single system of 
key targets "panaceas" and those who advocated them "panacea mongers." 

A study issued on August 18, 1941, six months before Harris's assumption 
of command, had already drawn attention to Bomber Command's inaccurate 
night bombing. The Butt Report, named for its author, D. M. Butt, a member of 
the War Cabinet Secretariat, had concluded, after examination of 633 photos 
taken by attacking aircraft, that only one aircraft in five dropped its bombs 
within five miles of its target. Only 7 percent of the British bombers attempting 
to demolish the Ruhr dropped their bombs within five miles (or within seventy- 
five square miles) of the target.8i The Butt Report, with its damning indictment 
of RAF night navigation, spurred the development of electronic navigation aids, 
such as Gee. The report may also have tipped the scales toward adoption of the 
area-bombing policy embraced by the February 14 directive by eliminating any 
option featuring precision night bombing. The Butt Report could only have 
strengthened Harris's mistrust of precision targeting. 

Like the majority of high-ranking British and American airmen, Harris had 
spent his adult life in the service. In 1914, he had joined the Rhodesia Regiment 
and had fought as a mounted infantryman during the conquest of German South- 


The Eighth Air Force 

Command, RAF, 

Air Chief Marshal 
Arthur T. "Bomber" 
Harris, Air Officer 
Commanding, Bomber 

West Africa. Forswearing the infantry, he had trekked to England where he 

joined the Royal Flying Corps and finished the war as a major. For the next fif- 
teen years he had commanded various bomber formations throughout the British 
Empire. He had served on the Air Staff for five years before going to the United 
States in 1938 to head a British purchasing commission. At the start of the war, 
he commanded the crack No. 5 Group, where he displayed his talent as a hard- 
driving director of bombing operations. 

Harris had a forceful personality and was prone to wild overstatement of his 
views. In support of his opinion that the Army would never understand air 
power, he was said to have remarked, "In order to get on in the Army, you have 
to look like a horse, think like a horse and smell like a horse."82 in an even more 
pungent utterance Harris was supposed to have said, "The Army will never 
appreciate planes until they can drink water, eat hay, and shit!" When stopped 
for speeding on a road between High Wycombe and London, he replied to the 
constable's admonition that he might kill someone, "Young man, 1 kill thou- 
sands of people every night! "83 Harris also enjoyed a special relationship with 
Churchill, which, if not personally close, was at least founded on a mutual inter- 
est in advancing Bomber Command. Churchill needed a means to strike at 
Germany proper before the cross-channel invasion, and Harris wanted as large a 
force as possible to bomb Germany into surrender by air alone. Harris had 
"direct contact" with the Prime minister.84 The proximity of High Wycombe 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

(Headquarters, Bomber Command) and Chequers (Churchill's country resi- 
dence) facilitated frequent and frank exchanges of views between the two men. 
This easy availability for face-to-face discussions often gained Harris the advan- 
tage of Churchill's support and a strengthened position with the Air Ministry. 

Spaatz, whose position in dealing with the AAF staff was also strong, 
although it rested on his relationship with Arnold rather than with the head of 
government, nonetheless came under increasing pressure to commit his forces to 
combat. Throughout July, the combat aircraft of the Eighth trickled m. On July 
1, the 97th Heavy Bombardment Group's first B-17 landed at Prestwick, but it 
was not until July 27 that the entire group and its ground echelon were com- 
pletely assembled.85 The 1st Fighter Group's initial P-38 touched down in 
England on July 9, but the group was not operational until mid- August. The 31st 
Fighter Group completed its conversion to Spitfire MK Vs, becoming opera- 
tional on August 12. All of the groups had been rushed overseas after receiving 
only minimal unit training in the United States. The 97th lacked experience in 
formation flying, high-altitude operations, gunnery, and navigation. When 
Spaatz and Eisenhower inspected a bomber group in late July, they flew a gun- 
nery training mission with a crew that had never fired on the range before, had 
just arrived from the United States, and had not even initiated crew training. 
After the flight Eaker chewed out his subordinate in a furious letter, asking: 

What would you think of an infantry regimental commander who, when told 

the commanding general was coming to inspect his regiment, assigned the lat- 
est recruit to put on the effort as representative of the organization? That is 
exactly what General Eisenhower, General Spaatz, and I think of you and your 
judgment and that of your organization commanders. It was a disgraceful per- 
formance. It wasted their time and gave them an erroneous idea of the state of 
your crews." 

Practice missions alleviated many of these problems and, on August 9, the 97th 
received orders for its first mission, which weather postponed until August 17. 

For Arnold back in the States, mission no. 1 could not come too soon. He 
had asked, then requested, then cajoled, and eventually prodded Spaatz for 
action. On July 16, Arnold had noted, "The movement of the First Pursuit Group 
with its accompanying heavy bombardment has not progressed by a long shot as 
I had hoped." On August 9, he had written, "I am personally gravely concerned 
over the apparent extension of the time period which you had anticipated neces- 
sary to complete the training of oiu: units prior to their actual entry into combat." 
He continued, "The strategic necessity for the immediate or early initiation of 
effective, aggressive American Air Force offensive operations becomes more 
and more apparent here daily." The harried AAF leader closed by admonishing, 
"Where doubt exists as to the ability of our units to acquit themselves ade- 
quately, I urge that you do not be over conservative."87 

Arnold needed results to justify the retention of top priority for allocation of 


The Eighth Air Force 

air resources to the strategic bomber offensive in Britain. Perhaps even more 
than Marshall he had opposed the newly agreed upon invasion of North Africa 
(Torch).* The diversion of heavy-bomber groups to North Africa delayed the 
bomber offensive from England called for in AWPD/1. The longer the delay, the 
greater the gathered momentum of the demands generated by other theaters. On 
July 24, as part of the final settlement concerning the invasion decision, 
Marshall had allotted to Admiral King fifteen heavy- and medium-bomber 
groups for use in the Pacific. In addition, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff shifted heavy- 
and medium-bomber groups from the scheduled buildup in England to the North 
African operation. In November 1942, the Eighth would have to transfer four 
Y eavy-bomber and four fighter groups already in England to Torch. North 
Africa, where the battle was against German and Italian ground units, would be 
a ground forces theater. The Pacific would be either a Navy show (in the central 
Pacific) or the ground Army's (in MacArthur's area of operations). In 1943, at 
least, the European Theater of Operations with its scheduled air offensive 
against the enemy's homeland, would be the theater that got the AAF its share 
of newsprint, but only if Arnold could get results. 

The press stories of disagreement between American and British airmen 
added to Arnold's desire for action. On August 15, Arnold felt compelled to call 
a press conference to defend the AAF. The conference, which the New York 
Times described as "perhaps the most active military press conference held in 
Washington since the war began," had extensive off-the-record portions. In 
reply to a question on the bombing of Germany he could only say it was "merely 
a question of getting the planes over there."88 

The next day, in the Sunday Times of London, Peter Masefield, a well- 
regarded British aviation expert, roundly condemned the American heavy-bomber 
effort. Masefield echoed the view of the RAF Air Staff, which had concluded 
that the B-17 and the B-24 were unsuitable for day operations in Europe. In 
January, on the basis of its experience with twenty early model aircraft, the Air 
Staff had concluded that "unless the Fortress or the Liberator can be adapted for 
employment at night they are unlikely to achieve more than intermittent harass- 
ing operations in daylight in a European theatre and in the face of modem air 
defenses. "89 Masefield suggested that the Americans produce and operate 
British-designed heavy bombers at night alongside the RAF.^o The American 
papers also carried the story. 

The day after Masefield' s article appeared, Spaatz held a joint AAF-RAF 
press conference to emphasize cooperation between the two forces and to finally 
launch mission no. 1. 

Spaatz had intended to lead the mission himself.^l Eisenhower approved 
these arrangements,92 with the proviso that both Eaker and Spaatz not fly on the 

* The decision to invade North Africa is discussed later in this chapter. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

same mission, but apparently, the British objected. What would happen, they 
asked, if a ranking officer were downed over occupied France and ended up in 
the hands of German military intelligence? Spaatz and Eaker reluctantly accepted 
the British view but decided that the psychological value of a general flying was 
worth the risk. Spaatz, however, had already learned one of the most important 
secrets of the war; the British had already fully briefed him on the ability of the 
British Government Code and Cypher School (GC and CS) at Bletchley Park to 
decrypt the messages of the German top-secret Enigma enciphering machine 
(used by all the German armed services and many civil and police organizations 
as well).* Spaatz obviously knew too much. Therefore, Eaker, Spaatz's deputy 
and Commander of VIII Bomber Command, who did not yet know the Ultra 
secret,93 led Eighth Air Force heavy-bomber mission no.l, directed at the 
Rouen-Sotteville railroad marshaling yards.94 The targeting officer of the Eighth 
Air Force, Col. Richard D'O. Hughes, selected the marshaling yards because 
they were far enough from the town to minimize killing French civilians and 
because they fell well within the range of escorting Spitfires.95 

The attacking planes bombed with reasonable accuracy; approximately half 
of the 18.5 tons of bombs released fell in the general target area. They damaged 
ten of twenty-four lines of track, destroyed some rolling stock, and scored direct 
hits on two large transshipment sheds in the center of the yard. The attack may 
have temporarily disrupted service, but it caused no lasting injury to the Germans. 
Serious damage to such a target required the attack of a far larger number of 
bombers.96 An overjoyed Spaatz greeted Eaker as soon as the latter alighted 
from his aircraft. 

After the first raid Spaatz enthusiastically told Arnold, "It is my opinion and 
conviction that the B-17 is suitable as to speed, armament, armor, and bomb 
load. I would not exchange it for any British bomber in production." Arnold sent 
Spaatz's message directly to the President, adding, "The above more than vindi- 
cates our faith in the Hying Fortresses and precision bombing. "97 

As Arnold's letter to Spaatz on August 19, 1942, indicated, the news of the 
Rouen raid was the perfect tonic which Arnold couldn't wait to share with the 
"highest authorities." He told Spaatz: 

You can't blame me for being a little impatient, because I have been impatient 
all my life. ... I was very glad to get the information covering the operation of 
the bombers over Rouen. That mission came just at the right time to act as a 
counter-irritant to the British report that our airplanes were no good, etc. etc. 
As a matter of fact, the President had me up to Hyde Park day before yester- 
day, asked me about that article, and told me he was much concemed. I assured 
him that there was no reason for being concemed. I hope we are right. 

* The high-grade signal intelligence material produced by the British Government Code and 
Cypher School was tightly controlled and distributed under the code name Ultra. Hence references 
to GC and CS as the IJltra organization and to the material as Ultra or the Ultra secret. 


The Eighth Am Force 

Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commanding General, European Tlieater of 
Operations, and Eiglith Air Force commanding generals, summer 1942. Left to right: 
Lt. Gen. Robert Candee (Commander, VIII Air Support Command), Brig. Gen. 
Frank Hunter (Commander, VIII Fighter Command), Col. Asa Duncan (Chief of 
Staff, Vm Bomber Conunand), M^. Gen. Walter Frank (Commander, vm Service 
Command), Eisenhower, Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz (Commander, Eighth AF), and 
Brig. Gen. Ira Eaker (Commander, VIII Bomber Command). 

Arnold was still greatly worried about "the tendency of the Strategic 
Planners to take aircraft away from the European Theater and throw it in the 
Southwest Pacific Theater." He lamented, "We are so dispersing our effort that 
we will have an overwhelming superiority in no theater. This in itself violates 
the approved conception of employment of aircraft." Arnold asked Spaatz 
whether he could "get Eisenhower and Portal together and for you to get every- 
body over there to stand up on their hind legs for the Air Force that is needed?"^^ 

In quick succession, on August 19, 20, and 21, the Eighth sent out three 
raids. None consisted of more than twenty-four B-17s, and the last one sent 
against the Rotterdam shipyards was recalled at the French coast after being six- 
teen minutes late for its escort. Attacking German fighters damaged one of its 
planes, but the bombers seemed to have defended themselves well. Spaatz sent 
reports of these pinpricks to an impatient Arnold. In a hurried letter, hand-car- 
ried to Arnold, Spaatz wrote that the latest operations indicated "we can bomb 
accurately from high altitude." Spaatz further commented favorably on his 
bombers' ability to maintain formation, fly formation through flak, and defend 
themselves against the Germans' best fighter, the Focke-Wulf 190 (FW 190).99 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

The King and Queen of England inspecting an Eighth Air Force Held with Maj. 
Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, sununer 1942. 

Earlier the same day Spaatz, who said he had delayed judgment until operational 
experience allowed him to gauge with accuracy the value of U.S. training and 
equipment, had justified his actions to Arnold. "First let me say that I can imag- 
ine what a strain this inaction has been on you and what a lot of gripes you have 
had to put up with and answer. But I really believed we were justified in with- 
holding action with our B-17s until we could get off to a good start and am fol- 
lowing a similar policy with the P-38s." Then Spaatz told Arnold that critics had 
begun to recant: 

In spite of the London Times, Seversky or anyone else the B-17s are far supe- 
rior to anything in this theater and are fully adequate for their job. The British 
themselves admit this and say that with similar equipment and training they too 
would day-bomb. They are unanimous in their praise of our Bombing accuracy 
about which they had their fingers crossed until now.'"" 

Arnold, recognized that Eisenhower because he had Marshall's complete 
c(H)fidence and would soon be a power in his own right, should have the best air 
advice available, especially if he were in charge of American air power's most 
important theater. Arnold tried to supply Eisenhower's staff with high-quality 
officers. On July 30, Arnold informed Spaatz that to help him meet Torch plan- 
ning obligations he was sending him Colonels Vandenberg and Norstad. Arnold 
wanted Eisenhower to accept Spaatz's headquarters as his own air planning unit. 


The Eighth Am Force 

"Get him to use you in that way as he is the head of all U.S. Anny Forces in 
Europe." Arnold added, "/ want him to recognize you as the top air man in all 
Europe [emphasis added]." A few days later Arnold rather querulously observed, 
"I am not satisfied that Ike is using you and your staff to the extent that we 
hoped he would. Perhaps geographical separation, or other factors not in evi- 
dence here lead him toward decisions without the advice and coimsel of the air- 
thought represented in your command." Arnold had wanted to offer Eisenhower 
"any officer in the Army Air Forces whom he might wish to have as his Chief of 
Staff but was unable to derail Brig. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith's assignment as 
Eisenhower's Chief of Staff. lOl 

Spaatz replied on August 11, "Hansell will be the top planner for air and as 
such under the present instructions will be the Theater Commander's Air 
Planner." Spaatz went on to point out that Hansell would live in the same house 
with him and other key officers of the Eighth. Norstad and Vandenberg were 
assigned to Headquarters, ETO, as air planners for the cross-channel invasion 
and Operation Torch respectively.i^^ 

The complexity of these arrangements apparently caused Spaatz some con- 
cern. On August 14, he told Arnold, "I am certain that it would be a mistake for 
two large Air Staffs to be built up here."i03 Spaatz suggested a solution to Arnold 
and Eisenhower, and so, on August 21, Arnold, at Ike's request, gave Spaatz 
additional duties as Air Officer for ETO and appointed him head of the Air 
Section of the ETO staff, thus assuring the Eighth of active participation in theater 

Earlier, on July 7, Arnold had given Spaatz a second hat by appointing him 
Commanding General, AAF, ETO, which did not add a plane or private to 
Spaatz's command, but did elevate him a step on the ETO organization charts. 
Before that, as Eighth Air Force Commander, Spaatz was a tactical commander 
and therefore was organizationally outranked by the Commanding Generals of 
the Service of Supply, ETO, John C. H. Lee, and Army Ground Forces, ETO, 
Mark Clark, who had theaterwide administrative training and doctrinal responsi- 

Spaatz now wore three hats (CG, Eighth Air Force; CG AAF, ETO; Chief, 
Air Section, ETO Staff) with one goal — ^keeping air power and its advocates at 
the forefront of the theater scheduled to receive the preponderance of U.S. 
wartime air strength. When Eisenhower was officially transferred to the 
Mediterranean in January 1943, an airman succeeded him. General Marshall's 
selection of Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews as CG, ETO placed the theater in the 
hands of a man committed to daylight strategic bombing. 

In September 1942, Arnold, eager for more materials with which to wage his 
air power publicity campaign on the home front, applauded Spaatz for suggest- 
ing photographs of bombing results. "People believe more readily what they see 
than what they hear," he noted, "Every daily paper in the United States will fea- 
ture the pictures if you can get them to us."i04 Arnold extolled the value of posi- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, 
according to his driver, 
"the hardest working man 
In the whole U.S. Army 
Air Forces," summer 1942. 

live publicity, saying: "Within the borders of [the] continental United States, 
two most important fronts exist, namely, aircraft production and public opinion. 
Nine months have passed since Pearl Harbor, and the American public now 
wants to see pictures, stories and experiences of our Air Forces in combat zones. 
The public is entitled to expect us to furnish . . . them." Arnold directed Spaatz 
to give the subject of publicity and news coverage "his full and immediate coop- 

Spaatz had probably borrowed the idea of bomb damage photos from Harris, 
who habitually trotted them out to impress the Prime Minister and others with 
his efforts. Eventually Arnold, too, kept albums stuffed with strike photos, duti- 
fully supplied by Spaatz, in his office to spring on unsuspecting visitors. He cir- 
culated the photos and even a glossy monthly magazine entitled Impact* 
throughout Washington. Air power publicity was rapidly growing. On Septem- 
ber 7, 1942, for instance, the lead story in Time magazine covered the Eighth 
and its coimnander. 

Spaatz also cultivated the press, though less ebulliently than Arnold. Several 
times he invited correspondents such as Ed Beattie and Joe Morrison of United 

* Impact was a security classified publication, but it appears to have circulated fteely through- 
out the AAF and official government circles. In fact, its security classification may have lent it a cer- 
tain cachet, making readers think they were "in the know." 


The Eighth Air Force 

Press, as well as Walter Lippmaim and Wes Gallagher of Associated Press for din- 
ner and late-night poker at his residence in London. He held press conferences in 
July and August. On August 23, Spaatz even allowed Arthur Sulzberger, publisher 
of the New York Times, to accompany him on a flight to High Wycombe where 
Eaker would be decorated with the Silver Star. The flight almost ended in tragedy 
when the pilot of their plane ground-looped on landing, wiping out the props and 
landing gear. Happily, everyone in the plane walked away from the crash. 106 

After a while. General Marshall, who did not want one part of the Army 
praised at the expense of another, cabled Eisenhower on August 19, questioning 
the advisability of all the attention given U.S. air raids and airmen. The next day 
Eisenhower passed the word to Spaatz, who temporarily muted his public relations 
activities. Spaatz persuaded Time to take him off the cover of the September 7 
issue (but not out of the lead story) and had his chief of staff substitute for him on 
a March of Time radio broadcast scheduled for that very evening. '0? 

In the meantime, Spaatz and the Eighth continued to struggle toward full 
operational readiness. In August, the Eighth Air Force sent out eight heavy- 
bomber missions, including one completely aborted. The largest August raid had 
only 30 B-17s. In September, the Eighth laimched only four heavy-bomber mis- 
sions, including another aborted mission. It lost its first 2 B-17s to enemy action 
on September 6 and had two new heavy-bomber groups (the 301st and 92d) enter 
combat on September 5 and 6. On its busiest day it sent out 76 heavy bombers. 

The next month the Eighth mounted only three raids, the largest of which 
numbered 108 heavy bombers. Two more groups (the 93d and 306th) entered 
combat, while the Eighth Air Force lost its first B-24 in combat. Yet for every 
few steps forward there would be one backward. On October 21, the 97th Bomb 
Group, the Eighth's most experienced heavy-bomber formation, transferred to 
the Twelfth Air Force, which the Americans had formed to support the Allied 
invasion of French North Africa, scheduled for early November 1942. Its second 
most experienced group, the 301st Bomb Group, went to the Twelfth Air Force 
on November 8. In November, the Eighth finally matched the number of mis- 
sions flown in August — eight. It put 91 bombers in the air for the month's 
largest mission and had three additional groups enter combat (the 44th, the 303d, 

These first short steps failed to please Arnold. His records showed 178 
heavy bombers in England by September 30,109 but as yet no single mission had 
come close to matching that figure. He sent Spaatz the first of a series of mes- 
sages that would continue for the next sixteen months and were directed at the 
U.S. bomber commanders in England. Arnold sarcastically noted, "It is believed 
that some powerful reason must obtain which limits your heavy-bomber opera- 
tions to an apparent average of less than one per week. Weather conditions alone 
are not believed the cause, nor the preparation of some of the two hundred heavy 
bombers under your control in England for use in other theaters. Request full 
information on the subject."! 10 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Arnold, who had never led a unit in combat, never seemed to appreciate fully 
the difficulties involved. Spaatz, Andrews, and Eaker repeatedly had to defend 
their seemingly dismal operational readiness rates which, in the autumn of 1942, 
could be attributed in large part to bad weather and training requirements. Before 
Spaatz could field all the bombers on hand, he had to finish training their crews, 
all of which arrived unready for combat. Weather played a far larger role than 
Arnold would acknowledge. An authoritative postwar study of weather as it 
affected heavy-bomber missions stated that weather reduced "the potential effort 
planned on a monthly basis by 45 percent."' n This figure included the summer 
months, which, of course, contained the best flying weather. 

Spaatz and Eaker, however, were encouraged by their progress. In a series of 
memos written for internal AAF use, Eaker gave his and Spaatz 's views. After 
the first four missions, he confidently stated his conviction that "in the future, 
successful bombing missions can be conducted beyond the range of fighter pro- 
tection."! 12 Six weeks later, after suffering his initial losses fi'om German fight- 
ers, Eaker reiterated his beliefs: 

Our bombing experience to date indicates that the B- 17 with its twelve .50 cal- 
iber guns, can cope with the German day fighter. There will be losses, of 
course, but there is no evidence that the losses will be of such a high order as to 
make day bombing uneconomical. I think it is safe, now, to say that a large 
force of day bombers can operate without fighter cover against material objec- 
tives anywhere in Germany, without excessive losses. 

Such losses as did occur could be much reduced, Eaker thought, with the 
provision of a B-17 type convoy defender aircraft, already existing in prototype, 
"with extra ammunition supply and extra armor, flying on the flanks of the 
bomber formations." He requested the shipment of a group or squadron of such 
planes as soon as possible. 113 

Eaker seems not to have yet accepted the technical feasibility of a long-range 
escort fighter. He did not ask for more P-38s or for the development of an even 
longer-range fighter. In reply to Arnold's criticism, Eaker wrote, "Three hundred 
heavy bombers could attack any target in Germany with less than four percent 
losses." A smaller number of bombers, which would lack the self-defensive 
strength of the larger force, would suffer greater losses. "The daylight bombmg of 
Germany with planes of the B-17 and B-24 types is feasible, practicable and eco- 
nomical."! i^ In the next year, the Luftwaffe day-fighter force would amply 
demonstrate the inaccuracy of Eaker's and Spaatz's initial assessments. 

Spaatz's Command Style 

In early August, Spaatz settled Eighth Air Force Headquarters (code-named 
WiDEWlNGS) in Bushy Park, on the outskirts of the Hampton Court palace 
grounds, southwest of London. Spaatz himself occupied a comfortable house 


The Eighth Air Force 

nearby in Wimbledon. He continued seeking out comfortable if not palatial resi- 
dences throughout the war — a habit that gave rise to ill-concealed jealousy 
among critics. They complained that such self-indulgence and Sybaritism were 
only to be expected of a fly-boy general. Spaatz did like his comforts, but there 
was a method in his practice: Spaatz made his quarters his command post, a 
command post where he housed many of his staff officers and held daily staff 

Shortly after the war one officer told an interviewer, "General Spaatz appar- 
ently does not like an office. He likes to be alone, to relax in the atmosphere of 
his home, and so we used to take major things out to him." Spaatz's deputy or 
chief of intelligence would take documents to him at lunch time. "At the end of 
the day," the officer continued, "you found yourself with a collection of papers, 
cables, etc. to go out to Park House because most of the key people lived 
there."! 15 The same officer fiulher observed: 

We lived and messed there and there was nearly always some key personnel 
around there day and night — ^it operated on a 24-hour basis. I can remember 
being there at two o'clock in the morning, rushing over to General Spaatz s 
house; General Anderson came out in his bathrobe, and General Spaatz served 
us tea. During a big night we were up all night in some cases. 

Living and working together fit in with Spaatz's philosophy of leadership. 
Spaatz once said of himself, "I may be peculiar in that 1 refuse to be seated at a 
desk with a bunch of papers in front of me to pore over."ll'7 In the same context 
Spaatz philosophized, "I doubt you can run any big outfit . . . immersed in all the 
details ... so you must delegate responsibihty." He went on, "It has always been 
a fetish of mine that you can't delegate responsibility without delegating author- 
ity with it."i 18 

A long-time friend also spoke of Spaatz's attitude toward routine: 

Tooey, like some literary characters, was inclined to get up very late and work 
very late. He was a night worker more than a day worker. So actually [he did] 
much of [his] work in pajamas in a messed up bedroom at 10 or 11 o'clock in 
the morning. That's just the way he worked; I'm not disparaging him. He was 

firmly in command The last thing in the world he wanted was an 8 o'clock 

officers' call someplace with everybody sitting down at desks pushing papers 
around. He just didn't want to be bothered with administration or minor mat- 
ters. He refiised to be.'" 

Spaatz ran a military household that had much more in common with the 

staffs of Lee and Napoleon than the German General Staff. By keeping his 
senior officers close at hand, messing, drinking, and even gaming with them, he 
established a firm and deep rapport with his subordinates. He did not make a 
habit of issuing long, detailed orders. Former Air Force Chief of Staff, General 
Curtis LeMay, who served under Spaatz in both the Pacific and European the- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

aters of World War II, recalled many years later that he "never got any direct 
orders from General Spaatz on anything," but after a few hours of sitting at the 
same poker table in the evening, he understood what Spaatz wanted him to 
do. 120 

Not everyone appreciated Spaatz 's methods. The informality of his head- 
quarters led some to believe that he was lazy, lax, or merely a good old boy 
prone to cronyism. As late as June 1943, after a year's close association with 
Spaatz, Eisenhower wrote of "the only weakness" he had found in Spaatz: 

I have an impression he is not tough and hard enough personally to meet the 
full requirements of his high position. He is constantly urging more promotions 
for subordinates and seeking special favors for his forces. My belief in this 
regard is further strengthened by the type of staff he has accumulated around 
him. He has apparently picked officers more for their personal qualifications of 
comradeship and friendliness than for their abilities as businesslike, tough oper- 

Repeated urgings from Eisenhower to correct this perceived defect produced no 
change. Spaatz's request for a liquor ration for his units also raised Eisen- 
hower's ire.121 

By freeing himself from the mundane chores of excess paperwork, Spaatz 
freed himself not only for decisions but for personal leadership. Throughout the 
war his relative freedom from his desk enabled him to visit and inspect the com- 
bat, training, and supply units under his control. Of course these units "prettied" 
themselves up for his visits, but he had far too much experience doing the same 
thing himself not to know how and where to look for any shortcomings. Because 
of his desire to avoid personal aggrandizement and his less than charismatic per- 
sonality, these visits had none of the flamboyant trappings that similar visits 
from Patton or Montgomery might have had. Spaatz went to see, not to be seen. 

The Eighth Air Force and the North African Invasion 

Even as Spaatz labored to create an effective force in England, events in the 
Middle East drastically changed the Allies' strategic plans. German Field 
Marshal Irwin Rommel launched an offensive in the Libyan desert that, after 
overcoming fierce British resistance, captured the fortress of Tobruk, shattered 
his enemies, and sent them reeling back to El Alamein, Egypt, the last defensible 
position in front of the Suez Canal. The debacle in the Middle East, the locale of 
Britain's major effort against the European Axis powers, threatened one of the 
basic strategic underpinnings of the Eighth — ^that Britain would be the base for 
an Anglo-American ground offensive against Germany in either 1942 or 1943. 

Churchill, already jolted by the disasters to British arms suffered at the 
hands of the Japanese in Malaya, Burma, and the East Indies, now needed to 


The Eighth Air Force 

shore up a rapidly crumbling situation in the Mediterranean. Added strength for 
that theater could come only from forces designated for the cross-channel inva- 
sion; Churchill set out to divert them to North Africa. As he remarked in his 
memoirs, "During this month of July, when I was politically at my weakest and 
without a gleam of military success, I had to procure from the United States the 
decision which, for good or ill, dominated the next two years of the war." He 
had to ask the United States to abandon plans for a cross-channel invasion in 
1942 to undertake the occupation of French North Africa in the autumn or win- 
ter by a large Anglo-American expedition. "I had made a careful study of the 
President's mind and its reaction for some time past," remarked Churchill, "and 
I was sure that he was powerfully attracted by the North African Plan." The time 
had come, Churchill believed, to shelve the cross-channel invasion, "which had 
been dead for some time."l22 

Roosevelt himself needed American troops in action against the Germans in 
1942,123 if possible before the congressional election of November 1942. 
Although leaning toward the proposed North African operation, the President 
gave General George C. Marshall, the outstandingly talented U.S. Army Chief 
of Staff and one of the strongest supporters of the cross-channel invasion, one 
last chance to persuade the British Chiefs of Staff to carry it out in 1942.124 

Marshall, Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, and Harry 
Hopkins, arrived in London on Saturday, July 18. They immediately closeted 
themselves with Eisenhower, Spaatz, and Admiral Harold R. Stark, chief 
American naval officer in the British Isles. Over the weekend, the Americans 
discussed a revision hurriedly thrown together by Eisenhower's staff, of the pre- 
vious cross-channel invasion plans. This revision called for the establishment of 
a secure foothold on the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy.125 Eisenhower, who 
had been recommended for command of the American forces in Britain by his 
mentor, Marshall, supported it, as did Spaatz. 

During the weekend Spaatz contended that a cross-channel invasion in 1942 
had a better chance than one in 1943. He based his reasoning on the condition 
and disposition of the Luftwaffe. In July 1942, the German summer offensive 
had taken Sevastapol and broken through Soviet defenses toward Stalingrad. 
This offensive had absorbed the bulk of the Luftwaffe's resources and would 
obviously do so for several more months. During the winter months the Luftwaffe 
could rehabilitate itself and would therefore be a much more formidable oppo- 
nent in 1943 than in 1942.126 

Spaatz repeated this position,i27 but he and the rest of the Americans failed 
to move the British in ensuing meetings. On the day Marshall arrived in 
England, Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff met and unanimously decided 
that the proposed autumn 1942 cross-channel invasion "was not a feasible or 
sensible operation."l28 Because the British would be supplying most of the 
resources required in any action, their refusal to go along ended all prospects of 
an early invasion. When the U.S. delegation reported this impasse to the Presi- 


Spaatz and the Am War in Europe 

dent, he replied with a list of alternative U.S. actions against Germany, but indi- 
cated a preference for U.S. actions against French North Africa. Marshall bowed 
to the inevitable and agreed to a U.S.-British invasion of French North Africa 
code-named Torch. By July 30, Roosevelt and Churchill made their tentative 
agreement on a North African campaign. 

The Allies' decision to invade French North Africa by November 1942 had 
important long-term and short-term effects. It undermined large-scale U.S. 
heavy-bombardment operations launched from the British Isles and postponed 
the cross-channel invasion until 1944. More immediately, Torch or its ramifica- 
tions required that Spaatz substantially modify his plans and expectations from 
midsummer to the end of 1942 and beyond. On August 6, he received a letter 
from Arnold detailing, with what turned out to be undue optimism, the final 
results of the Marshall-King-Hopkins mission to London: 

1. The cross-channel invasion would be abandoned for the year. 

2. The air buildup in Britain would continue. 

3. Torch would be executed. 

4. More aircraft might be diverted to the Pacific. 

5. A Torch planning unit would be created in London. 

The letter contained a postscript: "1 have just agreed with General Marshall fliat 
Doolittle will go to England at once as Commander of Air Forces for Torch."129 
By selecting Brig. Gen. James H. Doolittle, America's reigning air hero, Arnold 
at least assured the AAF that it would receive extensive press coverage of its role 
in Torch, whatever that role might be. Subject to Spaatz's and Eisenhower's 
approval of Doolittle, the Eighth had made its first contribution to the North 
African venture — its air commander. Doolittle had been slated to command the 
4th Bombardment Wing (Medium) for the VIII ASC. He checked into Widewings 
the same day, August 6. 

Torch not only delayed the cross-channel invasion, it slowed the buildup of 
the Eighth. In mounting the North African invasion, the Allies had accepted the 
necessity of assuming a defensive posture in operations against the Germans 
from Britain. As a consequence, Britain for the time being no longer required a 
rapid buildup in air power to support a ground offensive. The North African 
invasion would consume resources and shipping originally destined for Britain. 
All this meant that the U.S. bomber offensive mounted from England would 
start considerably later and with far less force than that envisaged prior to July 

The shift to Torch disconcerted Spaatz. He believed that the Eighth was 
making great progress. He had even somewhat optimistically convinced himself 
that "the presence here now of 200 B-17's would be a major factor in crippling 
German air power and insuring air supremacy next spring."'30 in a letter to 
Arnold, he wrote that he was "much concerned about possible diversion of units 


The Eighth Air Force 

from the Eighth Air Force. . . . Regardless of operations in any other theater, in 
my opinion this remains the only area from which to gain air supremacy over 
Germany, without which there can be no successful outcome of the war."i3i 

Four days before the Eighth's first B-17 raid over Europe on August 13, 
Eisenhower cabled Marshall that the current air plan, with which Generals 
Spaatz, George S. Patton (one of the ground force commanders), and Doolittle 
agreed, called for forming "the nucleus of Torch Air Force from the Eighth Air 
Force — to be supplemented as necessary direct from the United States."i32 

Eisenhower required the Eighth to contribute two heavy-bomber groups, 
three medium-bomber groups, two P-38 groups, two Spitfire groups, one trans- 
port group, and one light-bomber group. To compensate for these losses, he 
asked for five additional heavy-bomber groups in Britain. 

By August 18, Spaatz had been charged with the planning, organization, and 
training of a new air force, the Twelfth, code-named Junior, which would com- 
mand the AAF units assigned to the North African operation. Spaatz directed 
each of his various command headquarters to sponsor the creation of a corre- 
sponding unit of Junior. On September 23, Doolittle assumed command, with 
Vandenberg as his chief of staff. '33 By October 24, the day Headquarters 
Twelfth Air Force embarked for North Africa, the Eighth had supplied 3,198 
officers, 24,124 enlisted men, 134 and 1,244 planes for Junior. Until well into 
January 1943, 50 percent of the Eighth's on-hand supplies and much of its main- 
tenance work were devoted to the Twelfth. Well might Spaatz ask, "What is left 
of the Eighth Air Force after the impact of Torch? We find we haven't much 

The creation of the Twelfth Air Force prompted a disagreement between 
Spaatz and Eisenhower. On September 8, the two discussed the problems caused 
to the AAF, ETO, by having to raise the Twelfth while the Eighth simultane- 
ously flew operational missions. Eisenhower solved the problem very simply. 
He ordered Spaatz to cease all combat air operations by the Eighth at once. 136 
The next day Eisenhower cabled Marshall his proposals on how to conceal the 

From Spaatz's point of view, Eisenhower's decision was the worst possible. 
It delayed the entire AAF bomber offensive for an indeterminate period. If it 
provided an opportunity to justify the diversion of yet more AAF strength to 
subsidiary theaters, it might prove fatal to AAF hopes and deleterious to the 
morale of the Eighth's service and combat personnel. Spaatz apparently wasted 
no time in appealing to Arnold. On September 10, Arnold cabled Eisenhower, 
"You and Spaatz are urged to continue intensive air operations until the last pos- 
sible moment as the Eighth Air Force is now accomplishing the mission for 
which it was intended: (a) draw the GAF [German Air Force] from other fronts, 
(b) attract the attention of German fighters, (c) reduce German war effort by 
bombing important targets."i38 

On the same day, Spaatz gave Eisenhower a draft cable he wished to send to 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Arnold in which he forcefully expressed his disagreement with Eisenhower's 
order to halt operations. Spaatz was certain that missions from North Africa 
would not be as effective against the Luftwaffe and German war strength as 
those from Britain. He argued that "new operations jeopardize acquisition of air 
supremacy over Germany and may have serious effect on successful outcome of 
war"i39 and warned that air operations would be delayed for at least two months. 

Eisenhower persuaded Spaatz not to send the cable. Instead, he modified his 
position, cabling Marshall: "Ground elements of U.S. Air Squadrons in U.K. 
that are set up for service in the expeditionary force are compelled to begin 
packing of equipment immediately. Nevertheless, provision is being made to 
carry on at least two bombing missions a week."l40 Apparently, Spaatz was able 
to convince Eisenhower that the Eighth could devote maximum attention to 
organizing the Twelfth while continuing to bomb Europe. As long as Spaatz 
realized that Torch had overriding priority, Eisenhower was willing to allow 
him to salvage the bomber offensive. In the end, harsh northern European 
weather limited the Eighth's bombers to four raids in September, three in 
October, and eight in November. Although the rate of operations was only half 
of that authorized by Eisenhower and far less than that hoped for by Spaatz and 
Arnold, it at least gave the crews and commanders experience and probably kept 
some German attention focused on northwestern Europe. 

While the Eighth continued to aid Junior, Spaatz pursued two courses of 
action with equal vigor. He provided unstinting cooperation in all phases of the 
Twelfth's growth while doing everything possible to maintain the Eighth as a 
viable fighting force capable of sustaining a strategic offensive against Germany. 
He failed in the latter but not through lack of effort. In a series of letters to 
Arnold, whose views were identical to his own, Spaatz attempted to further his 
fight for the AAF bomber offensive. Noting unanimous British praise of the 
Eighth's bombing accuracy, he began, "I am more confident than ever before 
that the war can be won in this theater if we are permitted to carry out the poli- 
cies which were built up under your command." Daylight precision bombing 
would be decisive, provided the Eighth received an adequate force in time. "For 
God's sake," Spaatz exclaimed, "keep our Air Force concentrated here so we 
can polish off die Germans and get on with the war."l4i Three days later, he 

In so far as my advice is requested, and often when it is not requested, I have 
reiterated the folly of attempting to fight the war all over the world. In my opin- 
ion unless the powers that be come to a full realization of the necessity for con- 
centration of the Air Forces in this theater, we stand an excellent chance of 
losing the war."^ 

The three raids the Eighth had flown so far had convinced him that accurate, 

high-altitude bombing could be performed by unescorted bombers penetrating 
into the heart of Germany. Because Torch was turning the ETO into "a 100% 


The Eighth Air Force 

air theater of operation" until the mounting of a cross-channel invasion, Spaatz 
wrote that, in conjunction with the RAF, he needed only 20 heavy-bomber 
groups (960 planes), 10 medium-bomber groups (570 planes), 10 fighter groups 
(800 planes), 10 photo reconnaissance/weather squadrons, and 2 transport 
groups (supply carriers) to attain "complete aerial supremacy" over Germany 
within a year. 

Spaatz's and Arnold's advocacy of a continued air buildup in England did 
not stem from a desire to prove their air power beliefs at the expense of the 
remaining U.S. war effort. As their correspondence shows, they both genuinely 
feared a complete German victory over the Soviet Union or a stalemate on the 
Eastern Front that would allow the Luftwaffe to recuperate and redeploy to the 
west in the winter of 1942-1943.143 Although convinced that unescorted deep- 
penetration bombing was feasible, they did not believe that it could then succeed 
against the entire Luftwaffe or even against serious German counterbombing 
over Britain. They also had justifiable concerns about the German summer 
offensive in the Soviet Union which had, by late August, progressed through 
Sevastapol, Voronezh, and Rostov; penetrated far into the Caucasus; and 
reached the Volga River a few miles above Stalingrad. 

Roosevelt's August 24 request for production requirements necessary "for 
complete air ascendancy over the enemy" 144 gave Arnold a chance to open a sec- 
ond front of his own in the war to mount the European bomber offensive. Arnold 
assembled a team of air planning experts to produce a new document for the allo- 
cation of the nation's economic assets toward aircraft production, called Air War 
Plans Division plan for 1942 (AWPD/42). When he received the President's 
request, Arnold sent a priority cable to Spaatz ordering him to detail Brig. Gen. 
Haywood S. Hansell, one of the authors of the AAF's prewar planning blueprint, 
AWPD/1, to Washington for an important conference. Hansell woke Spaatz at 
midnight, August 26, to inform him of the message's contents, and Spaatz and his 
staff worked until six in the morning to gather background material. 145 

Spaatz and Eaker enthusiastically supported Arnold's attempt to refocus U.S. 
strategic thinking. Spaatz, deciding to send Eaker along with Hansell because he 
recognized the "vital importance of the forthcoming decision," wrote to Arnold: 

Hansell is thoroughly familiar with my ideas, and Baker's ideas as of opera- 
tions, etc., exactly parallel mine. I hope the idea can be put across that the war 
must be won against Germany or it is lost. The defeat of Japan, as soul-satisfy- 
ing as it may be, leaves us no better off than we were on Dec. 7. The war can be 
lost very easily if there is a continuation of our dispersion. It can be won and 
very expeditiously if our effort is massed here and combines its strength with 

Although Arnold could not get Eaker in to see the President, he did order 
him to make presentations to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War. Arnold 
remarked to Spaatz, "Our major program is more or less bogged down due to the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

diversity of interest. It has been dispersion, dispersion, and more dispersion in 
our unity of thought for the main effort."l4V Arnold told Harry Hopkins that the 
frittering away of air units and resources had sapped AWPD/1. Arnold pleaded 
for a revival of AWPD/1 because "it represents the only way in which we can 
vitally affect the No. 1 enemy at once. Given twenty heavy groups of bombers — 
700 bombers — operating from U.K. bases this fall and winter, I believe that we 
can prevent the rehabilitation of the German Air Force this winter." 

Arnold further promised to dislocate or depreciate the German submarine 
effort by destroying the five U-boat bases in southwestern France. '48 Failure to 
deliver on those promises would cost him in a coinage he could ill afford — cred- 
ibility. Arnold's pressure on subordinates to perform — as well as his penchant 
for counting raw numbers of aircraft in a theater instead of only those opera- 
tionally ready — stemmed directly from the practice of painting himself into cor- 
ners with promises. 

AWPD/42, issued September 9, was the AAF's official response to Torch 
and to the Navy's demands in the Pacific. In its strategic intent AWPD/42 
closely resembled AWPD/1, arguing that conducting simultaneous effective air 
offensives against both Germany and Japan was impossible with the resources 
available. Because the vital industrial areas of Japan were currently out of range 
of U.S. aircraft, Europe had to be the target for the one offensive that could be 

The projected offensive would destroy the German war economy by com- 
bining a U.S. force of 2,225 operational bombers, based in Britain and deployed 
by January 1944, with RAF Bomber Command. The AAF would concentrate on 
the "systematic destruction of vital elements of the German military and indus- 
trial machine through precision bombing in daylight," whereas the RAF would 
specialize in "mass air attacks of industrial areas at night to break down 
morale."l49 in addition, AWPD/42 called for priority production of large num- 
bers of akcraft, which clashed head on with the Navy's projected shipbuilding 
programs and the Army's anticipated heavy-equipment requirements. i^o 

When the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff met to discuss the availability of the fif- 
teen groups (two of them heavy-bomber groups) promised by Marshall to King 
in mid-July 1942 and destined for the Pacific, Arnold used AWPD/42 as the 
basis for his argument in favor of delay. The Navy objected and the battle was 
joined, finally to be decided by the President. Roosevelt, in typical fashion, gave 
each side half a loaf; the Navy got the groups for the Solomons campaign, but 
AWPD/42 's basic assumptions and all but 8,000 of its production requirement 
of 139,000 planes in 1943 were approved. By the end of the year, production 
realities reduced the aircraft goal in 1943 to 107,000.151 

In conjunction with AWPD/42, Arnold asked Spaatz to enlist the aid of key 
commanders in the ETO for the AAF position 152 Spaatz complied, producing 
messages from Patton, Clark, and Eisenhower. Eisenhower's message to 


The Eighth Air Force 

Marshall on September 5 shows Spaatz's handiwork: "We are becoming con- 
vinced that high altitude daylight precision bombing is not only feasible but 
highly successful and that by increasing the scale of attack, effective results can 
be obtained."l53 Eisenhower's request for the 20 heavy-bombers, 10 medium- 
bombers, and ten fighter groups that Spaatz had already determined would be 
needed so pleased Arnold that he told Marshall, "I believe that this cable is of 
such great and immediate importance as to warrant the presentation of its con- 
tents to the President and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff." Arnold asked Marshall to 
make the presentations to enhance its effect. 154 Apparently he did. 

Torch siphoned off the Eighth's operational groups and changed its bomb- 
ing priorities. Transatlantic shipping, which formed the centerpiece for the oper- 
ation's logistical plaiming, had become the objective of both the German and 
Allied navies in the Battle of the Atlantic, the outcome of which was still in 
doubt between September and November 1942 as German submarines continued 
to sink Allied shipping as fast as it could be produced. Thus, the Eighth 
embarked on a campaign against German submarine bases in France, particu- 
larly those at Brest, St. Nazaire, L'Orient, Bordeaux, and La Pallice. Their sup- 
pression would ease the pressure on the Allied navies and increase the chances 
of safe passage for the Torch convoys as they sailed for North Africa. 

After preliminary discussions begiiming at least as early as September 25, 
Eisenhower, on October 13, ordered Spaatz to make the submarine pens and bases 
his top-priority targets and to estimate the size of the campaign to be mounted and 
the extent of British cooperation. 155 

The next afternoon, Spaatz met with Air Marshals Harris and Portal to dis- 
cuss Eisenhower's order. They agreed that RAF Bomber Command lacked the 
equipment to precision-bomb the submarine bases during the day and that night 
bombing would be ineffective. Therefore, the RAF would bomb submarine- 
manufacturing installations in Germany while the Eighth hit the submarine 
pens.156 At the time, this latter task seemed perfectly suited to the limited reach 
and punch of U.S. bomber forces. Spaatz, Eaker, and Arnold apparently 
expressed no objection to the new priority. The Luftwaffe would certainly defend 
its submarine bases, start the battle of attrition in earnest, and realize the AAF's 
desire to draw it into combat and destroy it. Only later did the AAF's lack of 
proper ordnance (it had no bombs heavy enough to penetrate the massive con- 
crete roofs of the submarine pens) and its concentrating on a limited and pre- 
dictable set of targets, become painfully obvious. 

In a letter to Spaatz dated September 3, Arnold first voiced a theme that he 
would sound well into 1943. As with so much else. Torch was its inspiration. 
"Please understand," he wrote, "that the decision for undertaking the special 
operation is now completely out of my hands and it is upon that basis that I have 
insisted that it and the United Kingdom operations are complementary." Because 
Torch could not be averted, perhaps it could be deflected or at least be made to 
serve other AAF goals. Torch should go forward with all possible support; 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

therefore any units that helped to ensure its success, such as the Eighth, should 
be as strong as possible, too. 157 

Arnold soon concluded that coordinating the efforts of the Eighth and 
Twelfth would best be accomplished by a single USAAF commander super- 
vising operations in both Britain and Africa. That officer would be directly 
subordinate to the overall U.S. commander, Eisenhower. Arnold also con- 
cluded, pari passu, that only one man had the proper qualifications for the 
post — Spaatz. As Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, Chief of the AAF Staff, 
noted, Arnold had expressed a desire for Spaatz to remain at Eisenhower's 
side and provide him with AAF advice. Stratemeyer told Spaatz, "You really 
should be designated as the Commanding General, American Air Forces in 
Europe," not just of the ETO. Such "a request to place you in that position 
should come from Eisenhower, and I am sure that it would be approved 
here."l58 Spaatz discussed the suggestion with Eisenhower, but then rejected it 
on the ground that the already thin ranks of experienced staff officers would 
be diluted if yet another headquarters were created.l59 This was not an idle 
objection; throughout the war, the Achilles heel of the AAF was its shortage of 
adequately trained staff officers. 160 

Although Eisenhower had initially agreed with Spaatz that an overall 
USAAF commander was not needed, he gradually came to side with Arnold, but 
for his own reasons. He accepted the AAF's contention that a bombing offensive 
should be waged from Britain but thought it should come after the conclusion of 
Torch. He wanted to strengthen the Eighth immediately to use it as a reinforce- 
ment pool for North Africa,i6i believing that once bases were set up along the 
African Mediterranean littoral, Africa and Britain would form a "single air the- 
ater" in which air power could be' concentrated at any point to take advantage of 
weather conditions or strategic opportunity. 162 

On October 29, Eisenhower requested Spaatz' s support for his own plan of a 
unified AAF command "from Iceland to Iraq." He had apparently obtained clari- 
fication on the War Department's view of a unified command. A single theater 
would help keep resources from the Pacific, an appeal that two separate the- 
aters — ^Europe (Britain) and North Africa — competing against each other would 
lack. If Torch succeeded so that a unified command was possible, Eisenhower 
intended to place Spaatz in the position of "Supreme Coimnander of all U.S. 
Army Air Forces which came under his command, and to advocate the inclusion 
of U.S. Army Air Forces in the Middle East also in that same command." 163 He 
instructed Spaatz to prepare a plan for implementation of his proposal within 
thirty days. 164 

By the eve of the invasion, which started on November 8, 1942, Spaatz 
seems to have resigned himself to being Eisenhower's chief air officer in North 
Africa, although he would far rather have stayed in Britain to direct the Eighth 
Air Force. In a series of mid-November letters, Arnold and Stratemeyer urged 
Spaatz' s appointment. On November 13, Stratemeyer wrote Spaatz, "You 


The Eighth Air Force 

should get yourself appointed as overall commander of his Air Force."l65 j^o 
days later, Arnold wrote in a letter to Spaatz, 

With all due respect to everybody concerned, you are sidetracked. In my opin- 
ion, this whole problem of air operations in Europe must be controlled by one 
man. Are you in a position in England to give the best advice to Eisenhower in 
Gibraltar on such matters? It appears to me that if something is not done we 
will find the air being used more as a support for the ground arms than it should 
be, particularly so, when if there ever was a time to use it strategically that time 
is now [emphasis added]. It may be that you should take a trip down to see 
Eisenhower and talk this matter out."''* 

The same day Arnold wrote to Eisenhower, "Sticking my neck out consider- 
ably, I suggest that you have Tooey join you at your present headquarters."l6'' 
Finally, Stratemeyer put it most succinctly, "You should be in Ike's pocket."168 
All these communications illustrate Arnold's perception of Eisenhower as the 
most important and influential American officer in Europe. (Eisenhower's 
European Theater of Operations command already included all U.S. Army and 
AAF units assigned to Iceland, Britain, and North Africa.) Arnold's and the 
AAF's best interests lay in providing him with the best possible advice on air 
matters. Naturally, in Arnold's opinion, only Spaatz could give that advice. 

Stratemeyer' s last exhortation proved unnecessary. By the time Spaatz 
received it, he had already flown to North Africa to inspect the Twelfth and 
from there on to Gibraltar, where he met with Eisenhower and accepted the job 
as Theater Air Commander. Eaker moved up to command the Eighth Air Force. 

At a meeting at Headquarters, Eighth Air Force, on November 23, Spaatz 
explained to his staff the general function of the new theater air command. He 
saw its chief duty as strategic control, not operational or administrative control. 
It would be organized as follows: 

Eighth Air Force (in command of all U.S. air forces in Britain) 
Twelfth Air Force (in conomand of all U.S. air forces in North Africa) 
Iceland air forces. 

The theater air forces commander would exercise technical supervision and 
control of units attached to ground forces. General directives would be issued on 
strategic bombing, on allocation of units between the Eighth and Twelfth Air 
Forces, and on the readiness of heavy- and medium-bombers in each air force to 
support operations throughout the theater.l™ 

The questions of the final operational objectives and strength of the Eighth 
and Twelfth Air Forces and the organization of a combined Allied air command 
would be settled only after successful initial landings in North Africa. But at the 
end of November 1942, it probably appeared to Spaatz that he had guaranteed 
the attainment of the strategic goals of AWPD/1. He had gained a position from 
which, subject to Eisenhower, he could direct the strategic bombardment of 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

German-occupied Europe from any point between London and Baghdad. He 
could also concentrate his forces to operate in those areas most favored by the 
weather, wherever they may be in his vast command. 
Disillusiotmient would soon come in muddy Tunisia. 


Part Two 

Tempering the Blade 

The North African Campaign 
November 8, 1942-May 14, 1943 

Part Two 

Tempering the Blade 

tempeA'tem per\vfe\: to make stronger and more resilient through hardship: to 
put in tune with something.' 

Current and long-standing USAF tactical air power doctrine defines five 
combat functions for tactical air power: counterair or air superiority, close air 
support, air interdiction, tactical air reconnaissance, and tactical airlift opera- 
tions. USAF doctrine adds that the governing principle for determining the pri- 
ority given to each function is the neutralization of "the enemy threat having the 
most profound and continuing influence on the total mission of the area [theater] 
command." Air Force Manual 2-1 further notes that "all five combat functions 
are performed concurrently because they are mutually supporting."^ Although 
the next three chapters touch on all the combat functions of tactical air power, 
they concentrate on three: counterair-air superiority, close air support, and air 
interdiction. They also give not only an in-depth analysis of the tactical air 
power experience of another major air service, the Royal Air Force (RAF), but 
trace the influence of thought within the RAF on the emergence of AAF doc- 

During the campaign in North Africa (see Map 3, Operation Torch Area), 
the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe and their commanding general, Carl A. 
Spaatz, met and overcame fundamental problems in the employment of air 
power. At the campaign's opening, Spaatz left his task — that of introducing the 
strategic U.S. Eighth Air Force to limited combat operations from a secure and 
logistically sophisticated base area in Britain — to assume entirely different 
duties in North Africa. There he directed combined Anglo-American strategic, 
tactical, and coastal air forces in the midst of sustained combat at the end of an 
attenuated supply line. As the leader of tactical forces, Spaatz met and mastered 
three primary tasks of air in the support of ground operations: 

1. The achievement of air superiority throughout the theater of operations 
and above the battlefield; 

2. The provision of close air support to the ground forces; and 

3. The interdiction of enemy suppUes and reinforcements to prevent their 
utilization at the front. 

If superiority had rested simply in numbers of machines, the Allies would 
have had it throughout the campaign. Mere numbers, however, were decisive 
only if all other factors— training, logistics, organization, doctrine, weapons and 
geographic position, as well as the morale, combat experience, and condition of 
available manpower — were equal. These variables had to be factored into any 


meaningful calculation of Allied versus Axis air strength throughout the cam- 
paign. When initial Axis advantages are considered, the inability of the more 
numerous Alhed air forces to achieve their goals becomes clear. 

The delivery of close air support proved one of the most nettlesome prob- 
lems because it depended on the resolution of other shortcomings and on the 
personal relationships between the air and ground commanders. Close air sup- 
port was the application of aerial firepower in coordination with the movement 
and fire of friendly ground formations against hostile targets near ground com- 
bat operations. Successful close air support required attainment of air superiority 
over the field of ground combat operations. It also required the maintenance of a 
mutual spirit of cooperation between the ground elements and the air forces pro- 
viding support. During the early phases of the North African campaign, the 
Allied air and ground forces could achieve neither air superiority nor satisfac- 
tory teamwork. Consequently, from November 1942 through mid-February 
1943, Allied close air support was ineffective. 

Interdiction proved far easier to solve. The complete dependence of the Axis 
powers on supplies transported to Africa from Italy, the few ports available to 
receive those supphes, the shortage of suitable shipping, the limited number and 
constricted nature of shipping lanes, and the paucity of protected air transport 
fields made the Axis extremely vulnerable to any logistical disruption. Allied 
breaking of Axis codes, which enabled precise tracking of supply convoys and 
routes, added immeasurably to the ease with which Allied air power could locate 
and attack the many weaknesses in the Axis logistical network. Any problem 
stemmed chiefly from the difficulty of obtaining sufficient striking power. 

By using his managerial, organizational, and, above all, operational skills, 
Spaatz played a vital role in Allied tactical air power's reversing the variables 
that prevented Allied attainment of air superiority. In the later stages of the cam- 
paign, Spaatz improved the team work between Allied air and ground elements, 
which had been noticeably lacking in both the American and British components 
of Operation Torch's invasion force. As for interdiction, Spaatz was instrumen- 
tal in keeping the heavy bombers on interdiction tasks and in disrupting the Axis 
air transport system. Spaatz's treatment of air superiority, close air support, and 
air interdiction is explored within the next three chapters. 


Chapter 4 

The Race for T\inisia 
(November 1942-January 1943) 

Perhaps the most glaring error in the higher planning was 
the decision not to have a unified Air Command. The sepa- 
ration of the Air Forces into two separate commands with 
two distinct areas of responsibility was a stab in the back 
from which they never recovered until they were re-orga- 
nized under Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder. 

—AHB Narrative, ca. 1950 

Initial Invasion Operations 

On November 8, 1942, three Anglo-American task forces landed in French 
North Africa. After overcoming half-hearted French resistance, they occupied 
their initial objectives — Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. Fortunately, Admiral 
Jean Francois Darlan, Commander in Chief of the Vichy French armed forces 
and second in command to Marshal Petain himself in the Vichy regime, hap- 
pened to be in Algiers in the midst of an inspection trip of France's colonial pos- 
sessions in Africa. Darlan ordered all French forces to cease fighting on 
November 10. The Nazi invasion of unoccupied France, part of the German 
response to the North African invasion, led Darlan to agree to place French mili- 
tary forces under Eisenhower's command and to order the French civil adminis- 
tration to cooperate with the Allies. This agreement, signed on November 13, 
secured Morocco and Algeria for the Allies and allowed them to turn their ener- 
gies toward the liberation of Tunisia, much of which the Axis had taken over 
from the Vichy French at the start of the invasion. The Axis powers, aided by 
the confusion and inaction of the Vichy French government in Tunisia, rushed to 
forestall the Allies by hurrying troops and equipment across the narrow stretch 
of the Mediterranean separating Sicily and Cape Bon, Tunisia. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

The stresses engendered by the race to acquire Tunisia revealed weaknesses 
in Allied logistics, organization, and doctrine, particularly in the area of air- 
power. AAF personnel had played a minor role in preinvasion planning. Chief 
U.S. Army and Navy planners had limited the role of AAF personnel to provid- 
ing air details concerning tactical support to the invasion task forces rather than 
to employing air power in the Mediterranean at large. Ten days before the opera- 
tion started, Spaatz confessed to Doolittle that he had never understood the 
"what, when, and where" of the Twelfth Air Force's assigned mission and func- 
tion.2 AAF planners did, however, convince Eisenhower on one point — that the 
British and American air forces should be commanded directly by Eisenhower 
rather than by a subordinate air conmiander in chief .3 

The original invasion plan had called for an overall air commander, but 
Eisenhower said, "I accepted representations made to me, principally by American 
airmen in whom I had the greatest confidence, that the projected use of the 
American and British air forces involved such a wide geographical dispersion 
that unified command would be impracticable."^ This advice, consistent with his 
thinking, probably came directly from Spaatz. The abortive air plan for the 
autumn invasion of France that Spaatz prepared and presented to the Combined 
American and British Chiefs of Staff (CCS) during the King- Marshall-Hopkins 
mission of July 1942 provided for an organization exactly like the one Eisen- 
hower adopted for Torch. The July plan explicitly admonished that "there must 
be no subordination of U.S. Air Units, and no attachment to R.A.F. units." 
Instead, the plan specified, "there will be unity of command through the Task 
Force Commander. He will use his two air forces, British and American, as a 
Corps Commander would use two division commanders, without subordinating 
one to the other."5 Even when the two air forces operated in the same area, let 
alone widely separated ones, the AAF would not subordinate itself to the RAF. 
This failure to set up a combined air command before the invasion hamstrung 
the efficient application of Allied air power during the first crucial month of the 

Spaatz erred in his resistance to possible RAF domination. Although under- 
standable, his loyalty to the AAF weakened his military judgment. Of course, 
the example of General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expedi- 
tionary Forces to Europe for World War 1, influenced the U.S. Army leaders of 
World War II who had served their apprenticeships in the ranks of his forces. 
(Except for a few cases of extreme emergency, Pershing had adamantly refused 
to place his forces under the command of his French or British allies.) In other 
preinvasion planning for Torch, only the U.S. Navy consented to a combined 
command with its British counterpart. The U.S. Army and the AAF, for what- 
ever reasons, did not.6 

For the landing phase of the invasion, the inexperienced Twelfth Air Force, 
designated the Western Air Command, assumed responsibility for supporting the 
Casablanca and Oran task forces, both composed entirely of U.S. forces. Plans 


The Race for Tunisia 

called for the Twelfth to attain an eventual strength of 1,244 aircraft, including 
282 in reserve. The combat-experienced RAF supplied the Eastern Air Command 
(EAC) to assist the chiefly British Algiers task force. The EAC had a planned 
force only one-third the size of the Twelfth's — 454 planes of all types, many of 
them short-ranged Hurricane and Spitfire fighters. The EAC also had responsi- 
bility for air operations to the east of Oran, including Tunisia. Once French 
North Africa capitulated and Fascist Spain appeared quiescent — a situation that 
released the Allied forces assigned to watch those areas — the Twelfth had no 
strategic role other than to support the drive on Bizerte.^ 

Inexperience hampered the AAF's effectiveness. Twenty-nine years later 
Doolittle admitted, "I was a brand new Air Force commander, and I had never 
commanded anything bigger than about a flight prior to that time, so there were 
a great many things I had to leam, and I endeavored to learn them very rapidly. 
For one, I had to leam my job, and I worked hard at learning it. "8 

Doolittle, the short, stocky, forty-five-year-old son of a carpenter, had a 
devil-may-care image that masked a man of surprising substance. In the 1920s 
and 1930s, he won several international airplane speed races, including the 
Schneider Trophy for seaplanes in 1925 and the first Bendix Trophy for transcon- 
tinental speed in 1931; in taking the Thompson Trophy in 1932, he also set a new 
speed record. As one of the most famous pilots of his day, he had the same aura 
of mystery and death-defying courage that clings to modem-day astronauts. 
Doolittle had, on occasion, shown bad judgment. On a trip through South 
America in 1926, when he was under the influence of alcohol during a stopover 
in Santiago, Chile, he fell from a second-story window ledge and broke both 
ankles. Yet he finished the journey, including air shows and stunts, by flying in 
leg casts. On other occasions Doolittle engaged in wingwalking or sat on a 
biplane's wheel spreader or axle while it landed. 

Unlike many AAF leaders, Doolittle was not a career officer or a West 
Pointer. He had joined the Army in April 1917, transferred to the Aviation 
Section, and served there for thirteen years, until early 1930, before resigning to 
join Shell Oil. While in the Air Corps he earned a doctorate in aeronautical engi- 
neering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Shell, Doolittle 
worked to develop 100-octane aviation fuel, a prerequisite for the advanced and 
more powerful piston-driven engines that would equip U.S. aircraft in World 
War n. Recalled to duty as a major on July 1, 1940, he acted as a troubleshooter 
at various aircraft plants. In late January 1942, Arnold assigned Doolittle, by 
then a lieutenant colonel, to command Special Project No. 1, a combined Army- 
Navy effort to strike Tokyo with Army bombers flying from a Navy aircraft 

"Doolittle's Tokyo Raid," sixteen B-25s launched from the USS Hornet on 
April 18, 1943, once more catapulted Doolittle into national prominence. He 

again demonstrated his great physical courage by leading the flight and taking 
off with the shortest run. When a Japanese picket boat spotted the Navy task 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Brig. Gen. James H. 
Doolittle, Commanding 
General, Twelfth Air 
Force, 1942. 

force before the planned launch time, he displayed the ability to take a calcu- 
lated risk and demonstrated the moral courage needed for high command by 
ordering the flight to leave early, lengthening the journey by 250 miles. 
Rewards followed. The AAF and the nation, saddened by the surrender of U.S. 
and Filipino forces in Bataan in early April, rejoiced over a genuine hero. By 
May 5, the day before the surrender of Corregidor in Manila Bay, Doolittle 
was jumped to brigadier general. On May 19, President Roosevelt pinned a 
Congressional Medal of Honor to his chest. Arnold assigned him the command 
of the Eighth Air Force's 4th Bombardment Wing, a medium-bomber wing 
being formed. When the British and the Americans agreed on the North 
African invasion, Arnold reassigned him to command the Twelfth Air Force, 
which in the initial planning had not been large but which grew substantially 
with the invasion. Doolittle was definitely a man of parts, most of them excel- 

For all his abilities, however, Doolittle was slow to gain Eisenhower's confi- 
dence. Eisenhower wrote in his postwar memoirs, "It took him [Doolittle] some 
time to reconcile himself to shouldering his responsibilities as the senior United 
States air commander to the exclusion of . . . going out to fly a fighter plane 
against the enemy. "lO The first meeting between Doolittle and Eisenhower 
sometime shortly after Doolittle's arrival in Britain on August 6 proved disas- 
trous, for Doolittle had managed to convince Eisenhower only of his brashness 
and his ignorance of the job. ' l 

Although the AAF official history implies Eisenhower's acceptance of 


The Race for Tunisia 

Doolittle as the American air commander for Torch prior to August 6, any such 
agreement must have been tenuous. 12 On September 13, Eisenhower wired 
Marshall that he personally preferred and strongly recommended Eaker for the 
command of the Twelfth. He suggested Doolittle for the XII Bomber Command 
or command of the air supporting the Casablanca invasion force. The next day 
Eisenhower suggested to Marshall that Maj. Gen. Walter H. Frank, Command- 
ing General, VIII Air Service Command, was equally acceptable. Both Frank 
and Eaker had already gained invaluable experience establishing and preparing 
an air force for a major operation. 

Eisenhower's second message crossed with Marshall's reply to the first. 
Marshall gave Doolittle an exceptional recommendation: "Arnold and I both feel 
very strongly that Doolittle is a much more effective organizer and leader for the 
U.S. air force and Casablanca. He is a leader par excellence and both highly 
intelligent and strongly persistent in work of preparation." Marshall had just fin- 
ished taking Doolittle on a trip to the West Coast and noted as a resuh that with 
"his combination of industry, intensity, technical knowledge and level headed 
bearing he greatly impressed me as probably the outstanding combat leader type 
in our Air Corps. "1^ Marshall added that, despite what he had just said, the deci- 
sion was of course Eisenhower's to make. A few days later Marshall, in a hand- 
delivered note to Eisenhower, expressed his full confidence and approval of all 
but two actions — the appointment of Frank instead of Doolittle, which he termed 
a "tragic error" and the selection of Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle to command the 
Center (Oran) Task Force for Torch, Marshall offered to send any of eight other 
generals. 15 Eisenhower selected Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall and retained 
Doolittle. On September 23, Doolittle officially assumed command of the Twelfth. 

It took Doolittle months of hard work to change Eisenhower's opinion. The 
Twelfth's top remaining leaders had little or no more combat and administrative 
experience than their commander. 

North Africa, in the winter of 1942-1943, proved an unforgiving locale 
for the conduct of air operations. The division of the Twelfth into two parts, 
each directly subordinated to its invasion task force commander (Maj. Gen. 
George S. Patton in Casablanca and Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall in Oran), 
put the two sections of the air force 365 miles apart by air. The route trav- 
eled by the ground echelons from Casablanca and Oran to the front would, 
naturally, be more arduous and less direct. Furthermore, the task force com- 
manders' reluctance to give up command of their air assets prevented the 
Twelfth from gathering its full force. Part of the Twelfth remained tied to the 
U.S. Fifth Army in Morocco to watch the Spanish. Although portions of the 
AAF would eventually travel the entire 1,065 miles from Casablanca to 
Tunis, the Luftwaffe and the Reggia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) 
were more favored by geography. They had major depots in Sicily, which 
was 160 miles from Tunis, and Naples, 375 miles from Tunis. The Axis 
powers also seized the only four all-weather, hard-surface airfields in the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Tunisian plain,* which gave them a considerable advantage over the Allies, 
who operated from unimproved dirt fields in the eastern Algerian highlands. 
When the rainy season began in December 1942, these fields immediately 
turned into mud puddles. The Allies had only one hard-surface field east of 
Algiers, at B6ne, 115 miles from the front. (See Map 4, Allied and Axis 
Airfields on the Northern Tunisian Front.) To add to the confusion in the initial 
phases of the campaign, RAF and AAF units operated from the same airfields. 
All supplies for the forward imits of the Twelfth would have to move along the 
feeble colonial road network and one overworked, single-track rail line from 

In addition, the Twelfth lacked mobility. Aircraft might travel far and 

swiftly, but they remained tethered to their ground echelons. The ground eche- 
lons required considerable motor or rail transport to keep pace with the rapidly 
changing front lines characteristic of modem warfare. Already hampered by 
frangible French railways, the AAF in North Africa had to prevail over a chronic 
shortage of motor transport. The Twelfth started the Tunisian campaign under- 
strength in trucks because invasion planners, facing the usual premium on ship- 
ping space confronting any large-scale amphibious invasion and envisaging a 
static role for the AAF, had pared the Twelfth's motorized components to a min- 
imum. The Oran task force carried no two-and-one-half ton trucks, and only 50 
percent of all types of organizational vehicles. The Casablanca task force sailed 
with 100 percent of its men but only 50 percent of its materiel.i^ U.S. ground 
units moving to support the advance of Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. N. Anderson's 1st 
British Army into Tunisia aggravated the transportation shortage by stripping 
away much of the Twelfth's shrunken allocation of motor transport. 

The Eastern Air Command suffered the same hardships. It had requested 
shipping for enough motor transport to make its ground echelons 100 percent 
mobile, but was allocated only half of its request. 17 Many vehicles immediately 
fell into different hands. One air observer reported that new units' "Senior 
Officers and others were in the habit of commandeering vehicles as soon as they 
were unloaded in ALGIERS, without regard to whether they were consigned to 
their unit or not. When no longer needed, these vehicles were abandoned by the 

The original strategic plans placing the Twelfth Air Force in a static role, far 
to the west of the combat area, added to the organizational chaos. Doolittle had 
difficulty regaining command of his widely separated forces from the task force 
commanders. Each of the task force commanders (ground force generals who 
were the equivalent of corps commanders) for the Casablanca and Oran inva- 
sions had received control of approximately one-half of the Twelfth Air Force to 

* One, El Aouina, was only 20 miles ftom the front lines, and another, Sidi Ahmed, was 25 
miles away. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

provide support for their invasion assault. After the assault, the task force com- 
manders only reluctantly released their attached air forces. The confusion com- 
pounded when new air and ground elements landed in Algiers, in order to enter 
the fighting in Tunisia immediately, while their rear echelons landed half a con- 
tinent away in Casablanca. The Twelfth had other units still in Britain or the United 
States, or on convoys in the middle of the Atlantic. 

Communications and intelligence problems also plagued the Twelfth at the 
start of the campaign. The French telephone system, at best primitive and ineffi- 
cient, soon failed under the demands placed on it. Atmospheric conditions 
unique to North Africa hindered radio transmission, as did lack of modern 
equipment and half -trained signals personnel. 19 In many instances motorcycle 
couriers had to carry the load.20 Moreover, the Twelfth had no military intelli- 
gence. All its operational information came from the British; there were thus 
delays in planning and consequent delays in missions. 

U.S. Air Support Doctrine Before Operation Torch 

U.S. ground and air forces started the North African campaign with an 
untested air support doctrine. Because of the AAF's position as a combat arm 
subordinate to the Army rather than as a service independent from the Army like 
the RAF, the ground forces, rather than air, had the decisive voice in determin- 
ing official doctrine. In 1926 this dominance was reflected in War Department 
Training Regulation 440-15 (TR 440-15), which stated categorically, "The mis- 
sion of the Air Service is to assist the ground forces to gain strategical and tacti- 
cal successes by destroying enemy aviation, attacking enemy ground forces and 
other enemy objectives on land or sea, and in conjunction with other agencies to 
protect ground forces from hostile aerial observation and attack." TR 440-15 
also stated that the "Air Service is an essential arm in all major operations. The 
organization and training of all air units is based on the fundamental doctrine 
that their mission is to aid the ground forces to gain decisive success."2i TR 
440-15 authorized strategic bombardment operations under favorable conditions 
and after the defeat or neutralization of a hostile air force if it was "based on the 
broad plan of operations of the military forces."22 

The advent of General Headquarters Air Force (GHQ AF) in 1935 led to the 
revision of TR 440-15. This revision placed GHQ AF under the commander in 
chief in the field in wartime, and under the Chief of Staff of the Army in peace- 
time. The revision gave the GHQ AF three functions: 

1. Operations beyond the sphere of influence of the ground forces; 

2. Operations in support of the ground forces; and 

3. Coastal frontier defense. 

Operations beyond the groimd forces' sphere of influence were still required 


The Race for Tunisia 

to conform to the Army strategic plan, prepared by a section of the War 
Department General Staff dominated by ground officers. In addition, the GHQ 
Air Force Commander could be directed by the commander-in-chief in the field 
to "support designated operations of an army with all or with a specified part of 
GHQ Air Force in accordance with the instructions of such army comman- 
ders."23 Yet the 1935 version of TR 440-15 represented a significant step for- 
ward in the eyes of air officers, in that it recognized a role for strategic bombard- 
ment equal to that of ground support. 

It is important to remember that strategic bombing offered the airmen an 
institutional advantage not offered by tactical operations. Strategic operations 
were independent of the Army and could be used to justify an independent air 
arm. Tactical operations, in contrast, would always be in cooperation with 
ground forces and difficult to separate from them — hence the airmen's constant 
attempts to advance strategic air and their lack of interest in tactical air. 

Adolf Hitler's aggressive, revanchist foreign policy of 1936-1939 and the 
outbreak of war in Europe led to the reexamination of U.S. Army air doctrine. 
On April 15, 1940, War Department Field Manual 1-5 (FM 1-5) superseded TR 
440-15 of October 15, 1935. The authors of FM 1-5 intended it to be the com- 
prehensive rubric for the employment of all types of U.S. military aviation. As 
such, it defined the basic doctrines for strategic bombardment, antiaircraft 
defense, support of ground and naval forces, and air operations in lieu of naval 
forces. This manual was based on the recommendations of a War Department 
Air Board, appointed by Secretary of War Harry H. Woodring on March 23, 1939. 
Woodring designated Arnold president of the board, and its membership 
included Maj. Gen. Frank M. Andrews (recently appointed by Marshall to head 
G-3, Operations of the General Staff) and Brig. Gen. George V. Strong (head of 
the War Plans Division). After polling the components of the Army and the Air 
Corps, including GHQ Air Force, and the Air Corps Tactical School the board 
submitted its findings to the Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939. With only 
minor changes these findings became FM 1-5.24 

Although the manual emphasized the role of air power in the defense of the 
United States and its possessions, it provided for a strategic air offensive to 
"decisively defeat important elements of the enemy armed forces" or to "deprive 
the enemy of essential war material."25 In its discussion of air operations in sup- 
port of ground forces it laid down the following instructions: 

The hostile rear area is the nomial zone of action of support aviation, since 
operations in this area permit the full utilization of striking power against con- 
centrated targets with the minimum of losses and the maximum of results. 
Support aviation is not employed against objectives which can be effectively 
engaged by available ground weapons within the time required. 

FM 1-5 also observed that "aviation is poorly suited for direct attacks against 
small detachments or troops which are well entrenched or disposed." 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

The manual addressed the control of tactical air as well, stating that, in gen- 
eral, centralized control at the theater level maximized effectiveness, but noted: 

When decentralization becomes necessary in situations requiring immediate 
tactical support of specified units, the superior commander may attach to or 
place in support of specified large units a part or all of his support aviation. 
Support aviation may thus act with greater promptoess and better understanding 
in meeting the requirements of the supported unit. When combat aviation is 
employed for immediate tactical support of surface forces, the requirements of 
the supported force will be of paramount importance in the selection of objec- 
tives for air operations.^ 

In theory, the manual should have supplied a reasonable compromise solu- 
tion to the ground forces' desire for control of support aviation in a battle situa- 
tion and the desire of elements of the Air Corps to centralize the control of all 
tactical air under an airman. In practice, all would depend on the attitude of the 
theater commander, who would almost certainly be a ground officer. In that 
case, Air Corps officers feared that he would routinely attach air support units 
directly to his field armies or corps and ignore the strictures on centrahzation of 
air command. Army and corps commanders, whose attention would be focused 
solely on the attainment of their own immediate objectives, would be slow to 
release the attached air units and would invariably be unable to cooperate effec- 
tively with each other in a timely enough manner to take advantage of air's abil- 
ity to concentrate all of its forces over a single objective. FM 1-5, however, 
reflected the increased influence of the Army Air Corps within the structure of 
the Army and the development of an aircraft capable of strategic bombardment, 
the B-17. No longer, as in 1926, could the ground forces impose doctrine by fiat. 

A series of important prewar Army maneuvers in Louisiana and North 
Carolina in 1941 showed the extent of the rift between the ground forces and the 
air forces. As the Army groimd forces sought to adapt to the German method of 
blitzkrieg warfare, they clashed with the Army Air Forces, which had a different 
set of priorities. The ground forces, looking at the war in Europe and seeing the 
successes of the German army acting in close concert with the Luftwaffe, a force 
designed for ground support, formed armored divisions and an armored corps to 
fight the new war. To work effectively, these new corps required large-scale 
close air support to form a combined-arms team capable of fighting the Germans 
on equal terms. Thus they needed modem planes for training and an air support 
communications network and support team to function at full capacity. The AAF 
had difQculty supplying those items. 

The AAF, studying the war in Europe, realized it would need an air defense 
network and a strategic bombing campaign to weaken the Germans before 
attempting an invasion of the Continent, if that proved necessary. The needs of 
the ground forces took lower priority. The Western Allies were buying hundreds 
of modem warplanes and the AAF's own training programs were consuming 


The Race for Tunisia 

most remaining aircraft production, leaving few aircraft for air support training. 
Given these conflicts, prewar maneuvers had proved unsatisfactory. 

Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Arnold noted the poor coordina- 
tion between ground and air during the North Carolina and Louisiana maneuvers 
that he and Marshall blamed on the "lack of knowledge of fundamentals on the 
part of both the Air and Ground elements."27 Air and ground officers did not 
know air communications techniques and procedures, proper employment of 
their own forces for air operations, and the characteristics and limitations of air 
itself. Arnold informed Spaatz that Marshall wished to hold a series of command 
post exercises at Fort Benning in Georgia for all major combat commanders of 
flie Army. "The first one should be started off," recommended Arnold, "with a 
general discussion by all present as to exactly what Air Support means and how 
it is to be carried out, so that the fundamentals may be discussed frankly and all 
present get some ideas of what can and should be expected.''^? 

U.S. entry into the war increased the intensity of the dispute between air and 
ground. The Army reorganization of March 9, 1942, institutionalized the dispute 
by giving air and ground the same degree of power and prestige. In that reorga- 
nization the AAF and the Army Ground Forces (AGF) became separate and 
equal organizations imder the Army General Staff and the War Department. If, 
as in 1926, one arm or the other could have imposed its will, at least one of them 
would have been content. Or if a virtually unlimited number of planes had been 
available, both sides could have had adequate air resources for strategic bc«nb- 
ing and ground support, as was the case in 1944—1945. 

On April 9, 1942, the War Department promulgated a manual on air support 
based on the lessons of the prewar exercises. War Department Field Manual 31- 
35 (FM 31-35), "Aviation in Support of Ground Forces." Air historians have 
charged that it created many of the AAF's ground support woes early in the war. 
The AAF official history said of FM 31-35, "The outstanding characteristic of 
the manual lay in its subordination of the air force to ground force needs and to 
the purely local situation."29 Yet the AAF itself had issued the manual. The 
Army Air Support Staff Section had drafted the manual. Its successor in the 
March 1942 reorganization, the Directorate of Ground Support, had produced 
the finished copy. 

In fact, the manual attempted to reconcile irreconcilable air and ground posi- 
tions. It was not intended to speak to any aspect of air power other than air sup- 
port. The manual devoted more than half of its text to a detailed exposition of the 
air-ground communications network rather than to doctrines of employment. It 
placed an air support command — along with fighter, bomber, and base com- 
mands — within a theater air force, all under the control of an airman. The manual 
offset this arrangement by noting that the air support command would be habitu- 
ally attached to or designated to support a particular field army. Within the air 
support command, all control was centralized in the hands of its commander, an 
airman, who would assign missions as the needs of the ground units developed. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

If required, however, an aviation unit could be "specifically allocated" to the 
support of subordinate ground units.^O In such a case, the aviation unit would 
receive its orders from an air support control unit commanded by an airman and 
co-located at the conmiand post of the supported unit. The overall air support 
conmiander retained the right to assign other air support missions to the "specifi- 
cally allocated" unit. The manual went on to state: 

Designation of an aviation unit for support of a subordinate ground unit does 
not imply subordination of that aviation unit to the supported ground unit, nor 
does it remove the combat aviation unit from the control of the air support com- 
mander. It does permit, however, direct cooperation and association between 
the supporting aviation unit and the supported ground unit and enables combat 
aviation to act with greater promptness in meeting the requirements of a rapidly 
changing situation. Aviation units may be attached [emphasis in original] to 
subordinate ground units. This is exceptional and should be resorted to only 
when circumstances are such that the air support commander cannot effectively 
control the combat aviation assigned to the air support command.^' 

The manual assumed that in most instances ak control would be centralized at 
the theater level. 

FM 31-35 began its consideration of the method of employing air support 
aviation with the following obvious, but often ignored, homily: "The basis of 
effective air support of ground forces is teamwork. The air and ground tinits in 
such operations form a team. Each member of the team must have the technical 
skill and training to enable it to perform its part in the operation and a willing- 
ness to cooperate thoroughly."32 The first factor affecting employment was the 
establishment of local air superiority to ensure air support without excessive 
losses. Next came economy of force, defined as hitting the right target at the 
right time rather than using a few aircraft to hit widely scattered targets. Other 
factors included attention to time and space factors (distance from air bases, 
speed of communications, readiness status of aircraft, etc.), the inherent flexibil- 
ity of air power to concentrate on short notice, and the necessity of the air sup- 
port command to cooperate with other air elements in the same area. 

The manual's procedures for selecting targets raised the ire of pro air power 
critics, who focused on one paragraph: "The most important target at a particular 
time will usually be that target which constitutes the most serious threat to the 
operations of the supported ground force. The final decision as to priority of tar- 
gets rests with the commander of the supported unit. "33 This lifting of one para- 
graph from its context distorted the balanced intent of the entire manual, which 
was not an encomium for the doctrinal positions held by the ground forces. 
Ground force officers objected to the centralized control of air support aviation 
inherent in the air support command; they favored the direct attachment of air 
units to the units they supported.34 FM 31-35 satisfied neither the ground forces 
nor the air forces, which was perhaps the true measure of its attempt at objectiv- 


The Race for Tunisia 

ity. If it proved wanting on the battlefield, it was because most of the American 
air and ground commanders in North Africa were inexperienced in combat and 
half-trained in the air support procedures laid down by FM 31-35 or ignorant of 
its provisions. 

The issuance of FM 31-35 did little to solve the U.S. Army's and AAF's ground 
support training deficiencies. In front of War Department, Navy, and British 
army observers the AAF botched its share of a corps-level demonstration at Fort 
Benning on June 13, 1942.^5 This demonstration, conducted under the command 
of Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall, included units of the 1st Infantry Division. 
Both the division and Fredendall would play large roles in North Africa. In July 
1942, Maj. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, the Commander of the U.S. Armored Force, 
the chief armored training unit of the Army, complained to Marshall that the 
armored forces did not have a single combat plane working with them. When 
informed of the complaint, Arnold tartly replied that the armored forces had the 
best the AAF could supply and that he hoped to have sufficient quantities of 
light bombers and observation planes to meet ground force requests in full by 
the end of the year.36 

In September Devers complained directly to Arnold of "lots of talk but no 
real action because there is a great shortage of equipment." He pointed out spe- 
cific shortcomings in bombardment, observation, and communications units 
attached for training. "I stick to my opinion," said Devers bluntly, "that there is 
no air-ground support training. We are simply puttering. Cannot something be 
done about it?" Arnold replied that he had no modern heavy-bombardment, 
medium-bombardment, or fighter units available because all such units and their 
replacements were committed to active battle fronts. He had already allocated 
his only uncommitted light-bombardment group to one of the Armored Forces' 
major training establishments, the Desert Training Center. He attempted to reas- 
sure Devers by observing: "When our ground forces are committed to an active 
combat theater, I believe fhat they may look upon practically the entire Air 
Force in that theater as support aviation, as it is in North Africa today."* Arnold 
concluded by saying that he would continue to push for modern aircraft for 
training as soon as they became available.37 

If the state of air-ground training of the armored forces, which had the 
highest priority, needed bolstering as late as September 1942, one can only 
imagine the status of the Army's remaining divisions and of the forces assigned 
to the North African invasion. Lt. Gen. Leslie J. McNair, Commander of the 
Army Ground Forces, admitted on December 30, 1942, "So far as I know, there 
is no U.S. ground unit overseas which had air-groimd training before leaving the 
U.S., other than the superficial occasions incident to large maneuvers."38 Clearly 

* Arnold's mention of North Africa referred to Egypt where the British Western Desert Air 
Force (assisted by a handful of AAF units) was supporting Lt. Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery's 
British 8th Army against German Field Marshal Irwin Rommel's German-Italian Panzer Army. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

the invasion ground and air forces were woefully untrained for the task ahead of 

Despite the benefit of Britain's more than three years at war, the British 1st 
Army, Eisenhower's chief British ground formation, entered battle with air sup- 
port doctrine and practice hardly superior to those of Eisenhower's American 
troops. The British air planners for the invasion, perhaps constrained by security 
considerations, which prevented direct contact, took no notice of the combat 
proven air support advances made by their own forces in the Middle East.39 The 
British 8th Army and the Western Desert Air Force (WDAF), thanks to the hard 
lessons learned at the hands of the German Afrika Korps, had developed both an 
effective air support team and a modified air support doctrine based on close air- 
ground planning and communications. The British North African contingent for 
Torch ignored that example and instead produced a. plan similar to that of the 
advanced air striking force that had accompanied the British Expeditionary 
Force to France in 1939.40 That plan had proved deficient because it did not pro- 
vide close enough cooperation between the RAF and the British army. The 
Torch invasion plan in general suffered from the same defect. 

Nor were the British troops appreciably better trained in air-ground opera- 
tions than the Americans. The British 1st Army, under Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. N. 
Anderson, was a hastily assembled force that had never operated together as a 
whole. Nor were its troops of the highest quality; the British had skimmed their 
home country units (units stationed in metropolitan Britain) of their best man- 
power and starved them of modem equipment in order to maintain the British 
8th Army in the desert war against Rommel. In particular, the home forces had 
been forced to divest themselves of almost all their organic light antiaircraft 
artillery to augment that of the desert forces. This deficiency was not corrected 
before British units embarked for the invasion.^l The shortage of antiaircraft 
weapons left the British 1st Army vulnerable to even light air attacks unless it 
received adequate protection from friendly fighter forces. 

The Eastern Air Command, the RAF force responsible for the 1st Army's air 
support, had also been created for the Torch invasion. It had not worked or 
trained with the 1st Army. Its staff had come together at the last moment, with 
no opportunity to form a team. Its squadrons had worked together, but its admin- 
istrative and service troops were a hastily amalgamated hodge-podge of men 
with no training for field service or field conditions. They suffered severely in 
the North African countryside, where virtually no supplies could be obtained 
locally. The EAC had responsibilities beyond its means. It not only had to give 
air support to the 1st Army, it also had to provide for the air defense of all ports 
east of and including Algiers, escort and protect reinforcement convoys and 
shipping, and support the operations of the Allied fleet. Until it gained experi- 
ence, the EAC's own manpower and organizational deficiencies, not to mention 
the unfavorable airfield situation and totally inadequate supply lines, would hin- 
der its performance.42 


The Race for Tunisia 

Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. N. 
Anderson, General Officer 
Commanding, Britisii 1st 
Army, 1942-1!M3. 

In the long run, these shortcomings merely slowed the eventual victory of 
the Allies. The Axis powers could only delay the inevitable, given the decisive 
Anglo-American advantages in men and matfiriel — advantages, in turn, aug- 
mented by the priceless information supplied by the British signal intelligence 
organization, which decoded German Air Force, Navy, and Army as well as 
Italian air force and navy ciphers at both the strategic and the tactical levels. The 
British breaking of Axis codes, known as Ultra, may have contributed more 
decisively to the North African campaign than to any other in the European 

Operations in November-December 1942 

The Allies had originally planned to capture airfields at B6ne, Bizerte, and 
Tunis with airborne and commando troops, but uncertainty about the reaction of 
the French forces in Tunisia led to the cancellation of those ambitious plans. 
(See Map 5, Eastern Algeria and Northern Tunisia.) On November 10, a fast 
convoy left Algiers to occupy the port of Bougie, a little less than 100 miles 
away but still beyond the practical escort range of the EAC's Spitfires flying 
from Algiers. This convoy and a slow reinforcement convoy initially had air 
cover from the British carrier Argus. In the meantime, high surf foiled an 
attempt to land aviation fuel at the airfield at Djidjelli, on the coast a few miles 



The Race for Tunisia 

east of Bougie, grounding a squadron of just-arrived Spitfires. An attempt to 
supply fuel by truck from Bougie, a distance of 60 miles by road, misfired when 
the British 36th Infantry Brigade commandeered the designated trucks for recon- 
naissance purposes.43 As a result, when the Argus withdrew in the afternoon, 
according to schedule, the unloading ships at Bougie had no air protection. The 
Luftwaffe promptly took advantage of this situation to sink three transports. 

On November 12, a small British landing force seized the port of B6ne, 125 
miles east of Bougie and 185 miles by road from Bizerte. Bone had the eastern- 
most hard-surface all-weather airfield available to the Allies for the bulk of the 
campaign. It served as the forward air base for the RAF Eastern Air Command. 
It also had unloading facilities for twenty-two ships — an important consideration 
when the relative ease of sea transport was compared with the difficulties 
encountered on the only two roads eastward from Algiers and the single-track 
railroad. It took trains four to six days to reach the advanced railhead at Souk el 
Arba (taken on November 16 by British paratroopers) from Algiers, and the line 
could sustain only six military trains a day with a daily capacity of only 2,000 
tons.44 The rail line underwent a change in gauge just east of Constantine, which 
added the delay of transshipment and the threat of another bottleneck in the line 
of supply .45 

General Anderson, despite the grandiose title of his command, had only the 
understrength British 78th Division to send overland from Algiers. Its main 
body started its advance from Algiers on November 14. Its spearheads reached 
Djebel Abiod, about 25 miles from Bizerte, on November 17. At that point the 
British ran into tough German paratroops advancing from Bizerte and halted to 
organize for a general attack. 

U.S. Twelfth Air Force units began to arrive at British forward fields by the 
third week of November. They placed themselves at the disposal of Air Marshal 
William L. Welsh, but not under his command. He could not order U.S. squadrons 
to specific objectives, and "the targets were decided on a day in advance after 
exhaustive discussion. "46 A week later, reinforced by units from the U.S. 1st 
Armored Division, the British resumed their advance. Overcoming counterattacks 
supported by tanks and dive-bombers, the Allies advanced to the outskirts of 
Djedeida, twelve miles from Tunis, on November 28. Concentrated German dive- 
bombing attacks and newly arrived antitank guns halted them there. The next day 
the heaviest air attacks to date hit exposed Allied tanks and infantry, while the 
Germans organized their defense. 

By November 27, the 1st Army had one squadron of Twelfth Air Force P-38s 
(25 planes) at Youks-les-Bains, two squadrons of RAF Spitfires (36 planes) at 
Souk el Arba, and two squadrons of RAF Spitfires and one of Hurricane fighter- 
bombers (54 planes) at Bone available for both air superiority and close air sup- 
port operations. These planes had a serviceability rate of only 50 percent and 
Spitfires had no bombing capability. The aircraft at B6ne provided air defense 
for the port and arriving convoys and were not always available. In fact the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

British did not use fighter bombing to support their front-line troops in the cam- 
paign until December 15.47 

The Luftwaffe countered those planes with a force of approximately 81 
fighters and 28 dive-bombers based in Tunisia. In the entire Mediterranean the 
Germans possessed 1,220 aircraft, of which more than 512 were operating 
against Torch by November 12 and some 850 by December 12. At the same 
time they raised the number of their transport aircraft from 205 to 673.48 

Anderson naturally found the air situation unsatisfactory. He called off his 
attack on November 29 partly because "the strain of persistent dive-bombing 
was beginning to tell." He complained further that air attacks on Bone had seri- 
ously disrupted his supply lines and said, "This week was notable for the heavy 
scale of enemy air attack, particularly by dive-bombers, to which the leading 
troops were subjected, and which our own air forces were at this stage unable to 
prevent."49 Here, the inexperience of Anderson's troops, their light scale of anti- 
aircraft armament, and their lack of ammunition proved nearly disastrous. The 
slow-flying dive-bomber was a terrifying weapon, especially against untried 
troops who lacked the firepower to keep it at a respectful altitude. 

In the first phase of the campaign, the Allies did not provide adequate close 
air support because they could not obtain air superiority and because no air- 
ground team existed. The EAC's Commander, Air Marshal Welsh, had appointed 
Air Commodore G. M. Lawson to operate the forward squadrons. Upon arrival at 
1st Army Headquarters and later at 78th Division Headquarters, Lawson found 
communications chaotic. "Quite candidly," he acknowledged, "I am astonished at 
every point I have visited [by] the lack of knowledge of the operational setup and 
of the urgency of the drive in getting proper communications established. "50 
Without communications, air-ground coordination ceased. Anderson complicated 
matters further by insisting on repeated attacks on Tunis, Bizerte, and Axis air- 
fields elsewhere, as well as defensive patrols, known as "air umbrellas," over his 
own troops. These demands stretched the EAC far beyond its limited ability. 
Welsh did not help the situation by establishing his headquarters six miles outside 
Algiers, isolated not only from Anderson and Doolittle but also from Eisenhower 
and his headquarters, known as Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ).5i 

On November 13, the day before Anderson began his advance toward 
Tunisia, Eisenhower telegraphed Spaatz: "I continue to look to you not only for 
control of the United States air in the United Kingdom but as my most trusted 
air advisor. ... It may be best for us to confer immediately in light of what has 
so far transpired."52 Eisenhower referred to the Axis powers' prompt and vigor- 
ous decision to establish a bridgehead in Tunisia, surprising the Allies, since 
invasion planners had discounted any possibility of such action. The Allied com- 
mand had expected a cakewalk into Tunis once they had overcome the Vichy 
French.53 Four days later, on November 17, Spaatz's B-17 touched down at 
Gibraltar, the site of Eisenhower's headquarters for the initial phase of the cam- 
paign. Doohttle met Spaatz, who had come to the Rock at Eisenhower's request. 


The Race for Tunisia 

Air Commodore G. M. 
Lawson, Air Officer 
Commanding, No. 242 
Group, RAF, 1942-1943. 

By the time of their meeting, Eisenhower had already received from Bletchley 
Park, the location of the British Government Code and Cypher School, signal 
intelligence revealing an unexpectedly heavy Axis response. British cryptolo- 
gists had cracked the particular Enigma machine key setting (Locust) employed 
by the German Supreme Commander in the Mediterranean, Luftwaffe Field 
Marshal Albert Kesselring, and could read the intercepted traffic without 
delay."54 As the daily intercepts arrived, confirming increased totals of Axis 
men, aircraft, and tanks, Eisenhower redoubled the pressure on his subordinates 
to secure Tunisia. 

Thus Spaatz, who had arrived expecting to discuss the plan for a single the- 
ater air force (see previous chapter), instead found himself enmeshed in 
Eisenhower's anxious attempts to hurry the Twelfth to the east and to interdict 
the flow of Axis reinforcements. The confused state of Doolittle's command 
took priority over all other air concerns. At the meeting, Spaatz and his com- 
manding officer "decided to postpone the discussion of the organization of the 
Air Force until I [Spaatz] could complete a brief visit to the principal establish- 
ments in the North African Theater. "55 

As Spaatz emerged from the Gibraltar meeting, he learned that his chief of 
staff, Brig. Gen. Asa N. Duncan, had ditched his B-17 into the Atlantic. Subse- 
quent air search unearthed no trace of his plane, its crew, or passengers. The 
AAF had lost a valuable, experienced officer, and Spaatz had lost a friend. 

The tour itself was hardly a case of veni, vidi, vici for Spaatz. On his tour of 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

the theater he found much to correct while obtaining few concrete results. He 
and Doolittle left Gibraltar for Africa on the morning of November 18. At Oran, 
Spaatz noted its excellent repair facilities and "great numbers of [AAF] men 
who knew what they were doing and who were going about it in a fast and 
orderly fashion." He gathered a somewhat different impression at Algiers, par- 
ticularly of its major air facility, Maison Blanche, which he found overcrowded 
as well as unsuitable for deployment of B-17s. Its location put the heavy- 
bombers too close to the front, leaving them too exposed to enemy counter- 
strikes. Typically, Spaatz observed that "the place lacked organization." After a 
quick stop at Gibraltar to inform his superior of his findings, he flew to Casablanca 
on November 20. There he conferred with Brig. Gen. John K. Cannon, Commander 
of the Twelfth Air Support Command (Xn ASC). "Uncle Joe" Cannon, although 
not one of the top AAF decision makers, was only a step below the Amold, Spaatz, 
Eaker, and Andrews echelon. Cannon had taken flight training in 1921, had gradu- 
ated from the Air Corps Tactical School and the Command and General Staff 
School in the 1930s, and had led the First Air Force's Interceptor Command in 
1941. His specialties, pursuit aviation and training, neatly complemented the 
responsibilities he faced in North Africa. Spaatz reported to Arnold that "my 
impressions at Casablanca were very favorable"; he noted excellent shop facilities, 
but added that Casablanca's turf-covered main aerodrome was muddy.56 

That evening Spaatz returned to Gibraltar once again and spent the next day 
conferring with Eisenhower and his staff. These conversations resulted in an 
agreement on the single theater air force that Spaatz and Amold had championed 
for months. Eisenhower informed both airmen that he "was going to put in a 
firm recommendation to that effect but would await, for the moment, the "out- 
come of the Tunisian fight. "5^ This caveat proved the undoing of the unified air 
plan. The fight in North Africa dragged on so long and absorbed so many re- 
sources that it required the creation of a new theater of operations, which made 
permanent the split in AAF European resources. The most concrete result of the 
November 21 meetings was Spaatz's transfer from England to North Africa as 
Eisenhower's chief air adviser. 

Spaatz returned to England on November 23. He designated Eaker to com- 
mand the Eighth Air Force, and shortly thereafter he informed Arnold that 
"plans are underway for a Theater Air Force Headquarters and integration of the 
Eighth and Twelfth under its command. . . . With a very small staff I rejoin 
Eisenhower. "58 Arnold approved these moves and Spaatz flew back to Gibraltar 
on December 1 . The same day the Germans, strongly supported by tanks and air, 
attacked — driving back the advance elements of the 1st Army. By December 3, 
the Germans had defeated the 78th Division and substantial portions of the U.S. 
1st Armored Division operating under British control. The air superiority the 
Germans had established over the battlefield proved a decisive factor in their 


The Race for Tunisia 

Also on December 3, Eisenhower appointed Spaatz Acting Deputy Com- 
mander in Chief for Air of the Allied forces in North Africa. Spaatz's appoint- 
ment marked Eisenhower's first attempt to improve the effectiveness of the 
Allied air forces in his command. Spaatz would coordinate air operations rather 
than command them, because his new position had only advisory functions. 
Eisenhower noted, "This arrangement is to meet an emergency."59 Spaatz wrote 
to Stratemeyer, the Chief of the AAF Staff, "This is a temporary solution to a 
situation which will eventually require further clarification."60 

Temporary or not, Spaatz immediately made his presence felt. On December 
2, he had met Doolittle, Brig. Gen. Howard A. Craig, and Vandenberg, who enu- 
merated the difficulties facing them. The Twelfth's leaders especially objected 
to Eisenhower's directive to both the Twelfth and the EAC to give General 
Anderson and his 1st Army "everything he asked for. "61 In effect Eisenhower 
gave complete control of air operations to Anderson, which, as the assembled 
airmen all agreed, "resulted in misuse of air power."62 Anderson's daily de- 
mands for maximum effort in the defense of his front-line troops meant the dedi- 
cation of all missions to air defense and groimd support operations — an ineffec- 
tive practice resulting in terrific wear and tear on crews, aircraft, and mainte- 
nance personnel. Anderson, in the airmen's opinion, also failed to allot them 
necessary road and rail transport for their forward fields. Eisenhower's directive 
chafed the U.S. airmen because its restrictions placed them under the command 
of a ground force general whose ideas of air power seemed, at best, hazy. Spaatz 
agreed to broach these problems to Eisenhower as soon as possible.63 

On December 3, Spaatz established his headquarters. Craig had responsibil- 
ity for liaison between the Twelfth and Eisenhower's headquarters, AFHQ, 
while Air Vice-Marshal James M. Robb would handle liaison duties between the 
EAC and AFHQ. Spaatz also decided to assign deep bombing missions (in cur- 
rent USAF terminology, "deep interdiction" missions) against enemy supply 
lines to the Twelfth and support of ground operations to the EAC. The light- and 
medium-bomber units of the Twelfth would be attached to the EAC when the 
congested supply situation in the forward fields eased.64 

Spaatz's decision to divide his forces, with one force devoted exclusively to 
bombing missions behind the enemy's lines and the other devoted solely to the 
support of ground operations, departed from the then current AAF doctrine of a 
composite air force, a self-sustaining unit capable of all types of combat and 
support missions. Of course, the composition of the forces at hand made his 
decision almost mandatory. The EAC was equipped largely with fighter and 
other light aircraft, whereas the Twelfth had the only heavy bombers dedicated 
entirely to the theater. This functional division of December 1942 cleared the 
way for the AAF to concentrate on daylight precision bombing while giving to 
the RAF the responsibility of ground support for the 1st Army. It also helped to 
relieve the increasing congestion of aircraft in the forward airfields. Doolittie 
and the Twelfth Air Force had Hterally marched to the sound of the guns, flying 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

groups into the fields before their ground echelons arrived and crowding the 
EAC. To remedy the situation, the Allied airmen decided to withdraw four 
squadrons of fighters (out of twelve) from the front to Constantine and to recom- 
mit them when the land offensive started.^? 

At Spaatz's insistence, the flow of Ultra intelligence to the AAF in North 
Africa greatly increased. Spaatz arranged to have Ultra and other intelligence 
reports delivered to him each day by eleven o'clock. Then he and his staff would 
discuss and analyze the information before he made his daily call to Eisenhower. 
Spaatz brought the Eighth Air Force Chief of Intelligence, Col. George C. 
McDonald, from Britain to organize the U.S. intelligence setup. Spaatz had 
worked closely with McDonald, then Assistant U.S. Military Attach6 for Air, 
during the Battle of Britain and during their stint with the Eighth. McDonald had 
twenty years' experience in intelligence with a specialty in photographic recon- 
naissance, to which he had added several months' experience in operations, and 
a familiarity with Ultra.66 

On December 3, Eisenhower, Anderson, Spaatz, and Doolittle met to discuss 
current operations and future plans. The shortcomings of Allied air power, high- 
lighted during the successful German counterattack of December 1, ranked high 
on the agenda. Eisenhower reported to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that "the 
scale of possible air support is not sufficient to keep down the hostile strafing 
and dive bombing that is largely responsible for breaking up all attempted 
advances by ground forces."6'7 Anderson expressed his attitude in 1st Army's 
situation report for December 3: 

Unusually heavy dive bombing in the morning. The attempt will definitely be 
made tomorrow to operate fighters from Medjez el Bab aerodrome in the hope 
of alleviating the burden this continued dive bombing places on very tired 
troops whom I cannot relieve for at least three days. Until this air threat can be 
properly dealt with, there seems no possibility of lessening the effort which I 
must demand from the R.A.F. and U.S. Squadrons now supporting me.'* 

Spaatz and the other air commanders argued for a partial pause in the air effort 
in order to arrange for the completion of advanced airfields, the arrival of addi- 
tional air maintenance troops in the forward area, the positioning of spare parts 
and supplies in the advanced airfields, and the provision of radar warning and 
antiaircraft defenses for the forward area.69 

The current scale of operations could not continue, the airmen contended, if 
the ground forces wished to have any planes left to support them for the next 
attack. The EAC, for instance, reported on December 2 almost 100 percent 
wastage of its Spitfire squadrons. Eisenhower agreed to wait while his air forces 
improved their logistics and to accept reduced air operations. The bombers, as 
Spaatz had promised his AAF colleagues, switched to the ports. The fighters 
would mount a counterair campaign against German airfields. This pause would 
last until December 9, when the offensive would renew. 


The Race for Tunisia 

Unfortunately, this delay proved the first of many. The rainy season arrived 
with a vengeance, turning the North African terrain — roads and airfields in par- 
ticular — into viscous mud that quickly sapped the Allies' desire to advance. As 
early as November 29, one of the Twelfth's main airfields, Tafaraoui, located a 
short distance from Oran, had a hard-surface runway but no hard-surface dispersal 
areas. It reported 285 planes mired in the mud,70 giving rise to a ditty about 
"Tafaraoui where the mud is deep and gooey." 

In the three weeks from the December 3 meeting to Christmas Eve, Spaatz 
drove himself and his staff to prepare for a renewal of the Allied offensive. He 
called the theater's four aviation engineer battalions from Oran and set them to 
work east of Algiers. Despite the loss of two battalions' worth of equipment in 
ships that did not reach North Africa and despite confused unloading at the over- 
crowded North African ports, the engineers performed well. By December 12, 
the 809th Aviation Engineer Battalion had finished a single well-drained airstrip 
at Telergma, the start of a medium-bomber airfield complex. Spaatz sent the 
heavy bombers to Biskra at the end of a spur of the French rail system, on the 
fringes of the Sahara desert. There an engineer company completed a field in 
four days.'^l Spaatz ordered every available air transport to ferry bombs, ammu- 
nition, fuel, and supplies of all sorts to the front in order to keep his forward 
fields supplied. As usual, he traveled, visiting Maison Blanche on December 15 
(where he noted little improvement since his November 18 inspection), to 
Anderson's headquarters on December 20 (where Anderson expressed concern 
that Welsh would not properly support Lawson), and to Biskra on December 21 
to check bomb supplies. To increase the effectiveness of planning he prodded 
his chief of intelligence to get photo reconnaissance in order, especially in front 
of the 1st Army, so that both the army and air forces could determine bombing 
targets. Next, he ordered daily early-morning flights over the front line to give 
air planners some idea of the weather. He did his best not only to improve com- 
munications between his headquarters and forward airfields but also to establish 
links that would enable a unified air command for the theater. All this attention 
to detail had little immediate effect. Spaatz did not command "general weather."72 
On December 24, after three days of rain had rendered all forward airfields unser- 
viceable,73 Eisenhower postponed any major offensive for six weeks. 

By the end of December, Allied air had not gained air superiority or estab- 
lished effective air support arrangements. Air attempts to cut down the flow of 
supplies across the Mediterranean to the Axis bridgehead also had encountered 
difficulties. From November to December, Axis seaborne supply tonnage 
received in Tunisia increased by 60 percent from 12,627 tons to 21,437; airborne 
supply tonnage grew sixfold, from 581 tons to 3,503. But because a portion of 
this increase represented a partial diversion of shipping from Libyan ports over- 
run by the British, whose supply tonnage dropped by 19,0(X) tons in December, 
the total amount of supplies received by the Axis forces in Africa actually 
decreased by 8,000 tons or almost 25 percent.''^ 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Despite the increase in Axis tonnage to Tunisia, Allied interdiction of Axis 
shipping to Tunisia improved, too-=4"om no Axis supplies shipped to Tunisia 
lost in November to 23 percent lost in December J5 Throughout the Mediterranean 
the Allies sank 17 ships of over 500 tons deadweight in November (12 by air) 
and increased that total to 32 (14 by air) in December76 Apparently most of the 
shipping losses to air occurred on runs to the Libyan ports. American heavy and 
medium bombers concentrated their attacks on Tunisian ports, causing disrup- 
tion, delays, and some damage. Because Tunisian dock workers refused to 
unload under the constant bombing,^'^ debarking troops had to spend a day at the 
docks unloading supplies before marching to the front — an irritating but not 
damaging loss of time. Allied air power had a measurable, but not an immedi- 
ately decisive, effect on Axis supplies. 

As the forward movement, but not the fightmg, stopped m the Tunisian hills, 
Eisenhower struggled to set up an effective air organization.78 in doing so he 
turned not only to Spaatz, but also to Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, the Air 
Officer Commanding, Middle East, and one of the premier airmen of the RAF. 

In May 1941, at the age of fifty-one, Tedder became Air Officer Command- 
ing in Chief, Middle East. He found himself in the midst of crises on several of 
the fronts he oversaw. Rommel swept all before him in the Western Desert; the 
Italians still held out in Abyssinia; dissident Arabs attacked RAF airfields in 
Iraq; daily air raids struck Malta; and the final stage of the Commonwealth evac- 
uation from Greece had begun. The disastrous battie of Crete and stem fighting 
in the Western Desert lay ahead. By December 1942, Tedder had already served 
more than two years fighting the Axis in the Mediterranean. He had leamed the 
bitter lessons of Crete and Tobruk and supplied lessons of his own at El Alamein 
and during the Axis retreat to Tripoli. No American air commander at that stage 
of the war matched Tedder's combat experience and practical knowledge of con- 
ducting air operations in the face of the German and Italian air forces. Under his 
and his subordinates', particularly Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham's, lead- 
ership, the RAF in the Middle East had become the Allies' most effective 
ground support air force. Tedder placed himself at Eisenhower's disposal — a dis- 
play of inter- Allied cooperation much appreciated by the American commander.79 

Before joining the British army in 1914, Tedder had taken a degree in his- 
tory from Cambridge and won the Prince Consort Prize for an essay on the 
Royal Navy during the 1660s. In 1916, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. 
After the war, he served as an instructor at the RAF Staff College; in 1934, he 
served on the Air Staff as Director of Training in charge of the Armaments 
Branch; and in 1936, he commanded the Far Eastern Air Force in Singapore 
where he observed firsthand the interservice disputes that presaged the misman- 
aged defense of Malaya in 1941-1942. 

In 1938, he became Director General of Research and Development and vir- 
tually deputy to Air Marshal Wilfred Freeman, in charge of all RAF aircraft pro- 
duction until 1940. Upon leaving the Ministry of Aircraft Production, Tedder 


The Race for Tunisia 

joined Air Marshal Arthur Longmore as Deputy Air Officer Commanding in 
Chief, Middle East. For the next five months he assisted in the operations and 
administration throughout the vast theater under Longmore's purview. From 
December 1940 through January 1941, Tedder had direct command of the air 
forces assisting Lt. Gen. Richard O'Conner's Western Desert Force in its 
destruction of the Italian Tenth Army and the conquest of Libya. When Churchill 
and Portal lost patience with Longmore's inability to do the impossible, they 
relieved him and appointed Tedder.^o 

Unlike Harris or Spaatz, Tedder was not identified with a particular type of 
aviation. Instead, during his wartime service in the Mediterranean, he had spent 
more than two years in the pit of joint army-navy-air action. He had learned how 
to balance the conflicting demands of the services while maintaining his own 
and his service's integrity. He became, out of self-defense, an expert in unified 
command, acquiring a deep-seated belief in the necessity of joint service opera- 
tional planning and unity of command for air power under air leaders. After the 
war he said simply. 

Each of us — Land, Sea, and Air Commanders — had our [sic} own special war 
to fight, each of us had his own separate problems; but those separate problems 
were closely interlocked, and each of us had responsibilities one to the other. 
Given mutual understanding of that, you get mutual faith; and only with mutual 
faith will you get the three arms working together as one great war machine." 

Tedder had definite opinions on the North African command situation. A 
visit to Algiers in late November left him deeply disturbed. Eisenhower and his 
American staff had taken up quarters in a large hotel. The British had taken resi- 
dence in the naval commander's flagship because of its excellent communica- 
tions facilities. The two air forces had occupied headquarters miles from each 
other and from Eisenhower's AFHQ. On November 27, Tedder, after having 
observed that Doolittle refused to cooperate on a mission requested by the EAC, 
objected to the "almost crazy" existing air organization. The two separate air 
forces needed a single commander, preferably an American with a "first class" 
British deputy. Tedder obviously realized that the Americans, who furnished the 
majority of the aircraft, would not consent to an overall British air commander. 
He hoped to bolster the American head with a proven British backup.82 

In late 1942, Tedder rendered more than advice to the Americans. When he 
retumed to Cairo from North Africa on December 17, he took Brig. Gen. Howard 
A. Craig with him "for the purpose of furthering his education."83 In Cau-o, Craig 
visited the Combined War Room and the Joint Operations Staff, where Royal 
Navy, Army, and Air Force, staffs worked hand-in-hand on operations, intelli- 
gence, and planning. When engine trouble delayed Craig's retum flight, Tedder 
urged him to visit Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham, Air Officer Conunanding, 
Western Desert Air Force (WDAF), at Marble Arch, Tripolitania. The WDAF 
provided close air support to General Bemard Montgomery's British 8th Army .84 


Spaatz and the Am War in Europe 

Coningham, a New Zealander who had fought in the Australian-New 
Zealand Army Corps in World War I, had earned the nickname "Maori," which 
was soon corrupted by pronunciation to "Mary." A large man with a surprisingly 
high voice, he impressed most observers with his physical presence and his fer- 
vent championship of newly developed British air support doctrine, which he 
claimed as his own. Before his posting at Tedder's request to the Western 
Desert, in July 1941, he had commanded No. 4 Group in Great Britain and had 
been exposed to the machinery of air support being studied and developed by 
officers of the RAF Army Co-operation Command. 85 

Although many airmen consider Coningham the father of air support doc- 
trine — and he did serve as a conduit of that doctrine to the AAF — the method 
and technique of air-ground cooperation he used in the desert did not originate 
with him. As two modem British military historians have pointed out, the growth 
of cooperation necessary to form and successfully operate a combined-arms 
team of any sort — be it artillery-infantry, tanks-infantry, or air forces-army — 
was slow and delicate, requiring time, copious amounts of goodwill, constant 
human contact, and careful training. Combined-arms cooperation did not 
become fully functional instantly or merely by decree.86 

In their excellent history of British military theory, Shelford Bidwell and 
Dominick Graham present a thorough history of the development of British air 
support. They begin by noting that the RAF had begun the war with the inten- 


The Race for Tunisia 

tion of intervening on the battlefield only in ground emergency. The dividing 
line between ground and air operations would be the range limit of army 
artillery .87 When this plan proved unworkable during the campaign in France, it 
was discarded in favor of closer air force-army cooperation, which the RAF 
fostered by forming the Army Co-operation Command. Its commander, Air 
Marshal Arthur Barrett, and his two chief subordinates. Army Lt. Col. J. 
Woodall and Group Captain A. Wann, produced an outstanding solution to the 
problem based on an army-air control system created entirely by Woodall as a 
result of logical analysis.** 

Woodall's system had four chief components: 

1. The requirement for a properly equipped air formation reserved for the 
direct support of the field army but under RAF control. This formation would 
have two tasks: to shield the army from air attack by offensive action against 
enemy air and to apply airfoome firepower on the battlefield itself, coordinating 
closely with ground operations. 

2. A specially trained army staff (Air Liaison Officers — ^ALOs) able to 
explain air methods and limitations to soldiers and army methods of operation, 
planning and situation to pilots assigned to the missions. 

3. A joint command post or control center, the Army Air Control Center 
(AACC), staffed by army and air force officers. 

4. A communications netwoik of two links, one fixjm the joint air-army head- 
quarters directly to brigade or lower-level subordinate fighting formations in the 

Air Vice-Marshal Arthur 
Coningham, Air Officer 
Commanding, Western 
Desert Air Forces, RAF, 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

field, which bypassed intermediate headquarters, and another link direct from the 
joint command post to the airfields, where the ALOs had access to it. This linking 
of ground units to the air formations supporting them through only one intervening 
element greatly speeded up the delivery of air support to the forces needing it. In 
addition, each headquarters in an army had a signals section, called a "tentacle" 
(because of its appearance on an organization chart of the communications net- 
work), with a signals officer and a staff officer trained in air support."? 

When Coningham arrived in the desert, he found the WDAF and the British 
8th Army smarting from the rough handling they had received in a costly, failed 
attempt to reUeve the Axis siege of Tobruk (Operation Battleaxe). Both ser- 
vices saw the need to integrate their efforts. Into the breach stepped "Mary," who 
added the newly created air-ground method to ongoing joint exercises. In 
September the British army and the RAF published "Middle East Training 
Pamphlet No. 3: Direct Air Support." The communications network envisaged by 
this pamphlet mirrored the network proposed by Woodall and even called the 
jointly staffed Air Support Control Headquarters (ASCs) established at each 
corps and armored division headquarters "tentacles." Coningham had apparently 
gone Woodall one better by providing joint RAF-army staffing for the forward 
links in the system. The ASCs accompanied the 8th Army for Operation 
Crusader, which relieved Tobruk in late November 1941.90 

In May 1942, the RAF joined the rest of the British forces in the retreat to El 
Alamein. Once there, the new system proved its worth during early September, 
in the defense of Alam Haifa, Montgomery's first battle as commander of the 
8th Army. Before the battle, Montgomery, a firm believer in army-air coopera- 
tion, and Air Vice-Marshal Coningham had moved their headquarters to a com- 
mon site, which allowed the AACC to remain in close touch with both army and 
air staffs. By October 1942, the British 8th Army had virtually perfected the sys- 
tem and used it with decisive effect in the Battle of El Alamein and the pursuit 
of Rommel's defeated forces.^' 

By the end of the campaign in the desert, Coningham had modified 
Woodall's system, which had been originally designed to insulate the RAF from 
army command while providing the army with air support. In the desert the most 
difficult problem was not preventing the army's command of RAF units but, 
rather, coordinating the operations of the RAF units themselves. The control of 
the air and of aircraft in the air revolved around the fighter. As Coningham said, 
"The fighter governs the front. "^2 xhe fighter gained air superiority over the 
enemy's fighters, defended against the enemy's strikes, and escorted friendly 
bombers. As a result, Coningham created a fighter group with a headquarters 
and an air control center and placed it at a command level directly below the 
adjacent 8th Army/Western Desert Air Force Headquarters. The fighter group 
relieved Coningham's headquarters of the burden of detailed operational control, 
leaving WDAF Headquarters free to concentrate on planning and overall direc- 
tion of operations. 


The Race for Tunisia 

The fighter group control center contained an army gun operations room,* 
an air controller, a duty signals intelligence officer ("Y"), an operations officer, 
and two forward bomber control officers. They plotted aircraft tracks on their 
operations table and had the radio equipment for controlling aircraft. All bomber, 
fighter-bomber, and tactical reconnaissance missions were coordinated through 
the control center. The fighter group headquarters and control center were 
located as close as possible to the majority of the airfields, which enabled rapid 
communications by secure ground lines. 93 This modification curtailed the role 
of the AACC and the tentacles, reducmg them to the status of a specialized com- 
munications network divorced from command. 

Coningham's cardinal principle was that the enemy air force had to be driven 
from the sky before any other air operations could succeed; hence maximum 
force must be focused on an initial counterair campaign. He deplored the em- 
ployment of air assets in scattered groups and small numbers, called "penny 
packets," tied closely to ground troops and conducting purely defensive func- 
tions. Penny packets prevented the concentration of force necessary to win the 
crucial counterair battle. The achievement of air superiority by aggressive offen- 
sive action against enemy aircraft and airfields freed friendly air forces to exer- 
cise their flexibility and capacity for rapid concentration at the decisive point. 
When conditions did not require concentration, an air force which possessed air 
superiority could roam over and behind the battlefield at leisure, harassing or 
destroying enemy ground formations and supply lines. As a corollary, Coningham 
believed in the centralized control of air operations by an airman working 
closely with, but not directly under supervision of, the ground commander. 

Although Coningham put his air headquarters in a tent adjacent to Mont- 
gomery's own, he maintained that air officers had trained for their task and ought 
to be allowed to do it without kibitzing from soldiers with little idea of, or sympa- 
thy with, air problems. The RAF's independence from the army greatly assisted 
Coningham in the realization of his ideas.94 Coningham lost no time inculcating his 
strictures to Craig, who proved a willing convert. Criag's initial report gave Spaatz, 
and through him the AAF hierarchy, additional insight into British methods. 

Unfortunately, Coningham's and Montgomery's newfound skills made little 
difference in the early stages of the North African campaign. The Americans had 
yet to put their doctrine into practice, and the British had not yet fully assimi- 
lated the lessons of the Western Desert. Not until February 1943, did the hard- 
leamed experience of the Western Desert Air Force begin to influence all the 
Allied forces in Africa. 

* The army gun operations room coordinated RAF activities with army artillery to prevent guns 
and aircraft from interfering with each other's missions and from attempting fire missions better 
suited to either air or ground capabilities. For instance, aircraft could not safely fly into an area 
already under artillery fire, but could fly sorties beyond artillery range. There was no need to send 
aircraft to attack a target imdergoing the more accurate fire of artillery. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Within a few days after Christmas 1942, Eisenhower concluded that the lull 
in intensive air activity provided the opportunity to jettison the temporary com- 
mand arrangements of early December. This decision resulted in a short lived, 
but significant, reorganization, which increased Spaatz 's authority and revealed 
the complexities of inter-Allied politics as they concerned high-level personnel 
assignments. Eisenhower informed Marshall after careful study and discussions 
with Tedder, Spaatz, and Coningham, "I have come to the conclusion that a sin- 
gle air commander is necessary."95 Eisenhower at first wanted Tedder for the 
position, but upon further consideration chose Spaatz. Eisenhower noted of 
Spaatz: "He is a sound organizer and has gained, through operating as my 
deputy commander for air, a very fine picture of our problem here, as well as its 
relationship with the Mideast and with Great Britain. He is a fine officer and 
will do a good job."96 

If Marshall approved of the proposal, Eisenhower intended to present it to 
the U.S.-British Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS). Eisenhower did not expect the 
British to object to the naming of an American to the position because they 
knew Spaatz and because the Americans would supply the bulk of the bombers 
and a considerable portion of the fighters to the new command.^'' Two days 
later, writing to Marshall, Eisenhower explained that he considered it essential 
for his air commander to retain control of the U.S. heavy bombers in Britain.98 
As long as Spaatz remained the Commanding General, AAF, in the European 
Theater of Operations, he could call down reinforcements from Britain, whereas 
a British commander, because of the need to ensure the protection of his home- 
land, would have a more difficult time doing this. Eisenhower wanted to guaran- 
tee his ability to obtain timely air reinforcements. 

Churchill and Portal did not care for the appointment of a man with little 
field experience in the command and administration of a mixed air force to the 
command of all Allied air forces in North Africa.^^ After some grousing, how- 
ever, they consented on condition that Spaatz appoint a British officer as his 
deputy and that his staff contain a British officer experienced in maintenance 
and supply. 100 Their acquiescence also hinged on their perception that the 
proper air command arrangements in North Africa would soon be reconsidered 
at the meeting of President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and their 
Combined Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca in raid- January. lOl 

Eisenhower found the British stipulations acceptable. On January 5, 1943, 
he appointed Spaatz Commander of the Allied Air Force and Air Vice-Marshal 
James M. Robb as deputy. Eisenhower attempted to follow British suggestions 
on the internal structure of the Allied Air Force. The British recommended that 
all their own and U.S. aircraft, irrespective of nationality, be grouped according 
to their functions, logistic possibilities, and tactical requirements. Because both 
British and U.S. statutes tied military promotions, discipline, and other functions 
to the existing Twelfth Air Force and EAC, Eisenhower did not wish to dispense 
with those organizations. Consequently, he gave the EAC control of general 


The Race for Tunisia 

reconnaissance, a striking force to hit enemy shipping, and an air support force 
to cooperate with the British 1st Army. The Twelfth was assigned the tasks of 
conducting strategic heavy-bombing missions and providing close air support to 
the U.S. n Corps in Tunisia. The two existing organizations had by now solved 
many of the tough administrative and logistical problems facing them in North 
Africa and their dissolution might reopen Pandora's box. 

These new arrangements, which lasted until mid-February 1943, did not 
ease the Twelfth's basic logistics problem. Spaatz reported to Eisenhower on 
January 1 that lack of transport prevented any air buildup to support a ground 
offensive. Two days later, Spaatz repeated to Eisenhower that stockpiles of sup- 
plies and preparations were needed at the front. He also asked for a higher prior- 
ity in allocation of supplies sent forward. The day before his departure for 
Casablanca on January 19, Spaatz instructed his forces to take advantage of the 
lull in fighting to strengthen the buildup of repair and maintenance capability 
and to get replacement aircraft to the front as rapidly as possible. On January 20, 
he inspected Marrakech, the African terminus of the AAF South Atlantic air 
ferry route, to clarify the responsibilities of the rear area services of supply and 
training. All these actions helped to ensure maximum effort in the task of untan- 
gling the knotted logistics situation. 102 

The Germans halted the Allied drive on Tunis twenty-five miles short of its 
goal, a margin of Allied defeat so narrow that a slight change in any of several 
factors might have brought a different outcome. The men on the spot could not 
hold back the rainy season, or overcome an overloaded transport system, or 
build hard-surface airfields in an instant, or correct badly loaded ships. For both 
air and ground forces, the first phase of the Tunisian campaign was a logistical 
nightmare. By the end of November, the forward airfields were so overloaded 
that Eisenhower's Assistant Chief of Staff for Air, Air Vice-Marshal A.P.M. 
Sanders, reported that it was "imperative that no more U.S. air squadrons should 
be brought to the East from the Oran and Casablanca areas until the situation 
regarding airfields and supplies to them can be improved." Sanders added 
sternly, "It is useless to send operational air units to them [forward airfields] 
until transportation and communications to keep them effectively supplied and 
controlled can be established" [emphasis in original]. 103 

In December 1942, Spaatz made solid, if unspectacular, progress toward 
solving logistical problems, but because of those problems he made less head- 
way in the gaining of air superiority, the provision of close air support, and the 
interdiction of enemy supply. Successful tactical air operations required superi- 
ority in aircraft at the front — and superiority could be achieved only by having 
an overwhelming number of aircraft at all points or by concentrating the planes 
available at key points. Both necessitated better logistics. More planes needed 
more fields and supplies. Concentration at key points needed better command 
and control of available aircraft. 

The Allied Air Force was created to clarify lines of command and thereby 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

ease the ability to concentrate both air forces on one objective. Control of air- 
craft in the air, which would greatly increase the offensive and defensive power 
of Allied fighters, awaited the delivery and installation of adequate radio and 
radar equipment, another function of the logistics system. 

In the next phase of the campaign Spaatz directly addressed the problem of 
tactical air. 


Chapter 5 

Failure and Reorganization 
(January-March 1943) 

I have mentioned the need for mutual understanding and 
mutual faith. This, in the ultimate, comes down to personali- 
ties. One thing I have learnt in this late war is that the per- 
sonality of the few men at the top — commanders and 
staff — matters far more than conceived.' 

—Sir Arthur Tedder, January 9, 1946 

The Casablanca Conference 

From January 14 to 24, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and their 
Combined Chiefs of Staff met at Casablanca, in French Morocco, to settle the 
Western Alliance's war strategy for 1943. They decided, after putting aside 
American alternative suggestions, to continue the main effort against the Axis 
powers in the Mediterranean and to postpone the major invasion across the 
English Channel into France until 1944. This decision affected both the forces 
then fighting the Axis in North Africa and the buildup of forces in Britain. 

The conference divided Allied forces fighting the European Axis powers 
into two separate theaters. North Africa and England. Thereupon, the Americans, 
for their own administrative piuposes, formed a separate North African Theater 
of Operations (NATO) to support the campaign in Tunisia and subsequent oper- 
ations in the Mediterranean, while maintaining the previously established 
European Theater of Operations (ETO) to support the strategic bomber offensive 
against Germany and to prepare for the cross-channel invasion. An AAF officer, 
Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, replaced Eisenhower as Commanding General, 
U.S. Army, ETO, and Eisenhower became Commanding General, U.S. Army, 
NATO. Eisenhower also retained his position as overall Allied Commander in 
North Africa. Andrews's responsibilities included the prosecution of the U.S. 
portion of the U.S.-British Combined Bomber Offensive. This offensive. 


Spaatz and the Am War in Europe 

Lt Gen. Frank M. 
Andrews, Commanding 
General, European 
Theater of Operations, 

directed against Germany and occupied Europe, received the endorsement of the 
conferees, who called for "the heaviest possible bomber offensive against the 
German war effort,"2 with the ultimate goal of "the progressive destruction and 
dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the 
undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity 
for armed resistance is fatally weakened."^ 

The selection of Andrews to fill this post disappointed Spaatz. He wanted to 
direct the Combined Bomber Offensive himself and had even asked Arnold at 
Casablanca whether he could return to the Eighth to do so. Arnold told him no, 
because the new assignments had already been planned at the "very highest lev- 
els."'* Spaatz did not allow this setback to weaken his efforts in North Africa. 

The Casablanca Conference spawned yet another reorganization of Allied 
air power in North Africa, this one along the lines suggested by the British in 
their earlier proposals. Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder became Air Comman- 
der in Chief, Mediterranean, in charge of Allied air forces in both the North 
African and the British Middle East theaters of war. He had two principal sub- 
ordinates — an air commander for the Middle East (Air Commander in Chief, 
Middle East, Air Chief Marshal Sholto Douglas) and an air commander for 
Northwest Africa (Spaatz). Spaatz 's combat elements, the U.S. Twelfth Air 
Force and the British Eastern Air Command (EAC) plus the Western Desert Air 
Force (WDAF) (including the U.S. Ninth Air Force), which had not yet arrived 


Failure and Reorganization 

from Tripolitania, would split to form three functional commands. Doolittle, 
recently promoted to major general, would oversee the Northwest African 
Strategic Air Force (NASAF), composed of heavy and medium bombers and 
their escorting fighters. This force would bomb Axis ports in Italy and Tunisia, 
attack Axis shipping in transit, and assist the other two air forces if necessary. 
Air Marshal Arthur Coningham would head up the Northwest African Tactical 
Air Force (NATAF), composed of Allied fighter-bombers, light and ground- 
attack bombers, and a force of fighters. This force would provide ground support 
for the newly formed 18 Army Group, which would take command of all Allied 
ground forces in Tunisia. Air Marshal Hugh P. Lloyd would command the 
Northwest African Coastal Air Force (NACAF), composed of fighters, long- 
range reconnaissance aircraft, and antisubmarine planes. This force would pro- 
tect Allied shipping and ports.5 

At the Casablanca Conference Arnold had an opportunity to propound the 
AAF's strategic views before Roosevelt, Churchill, and their combined military 
staffs. The AAF also had to stave off a last British attempt to shunt the U.S. 
bomber force from daylight bombing to night operations. This proposal had the 
support of the Prime Minister, who became Arnold's major target in a campaign 
to preserve daylight precision bombing. 

The AAF's inability to mount a single bombing raid on the German home- 
land in the thirteen months since the United States had entered the war had stim- 
ulated the Prime Minister's doubts. As late as mid-September 1942, Churchill 
expressed unreserved support of Spaatz and U.S. daylight heavy bombing. In a 
personal message to Roosevelt he asked for more B-17s, observing, 

A few hundred fortresses this autumn and winter, while substantial German Air 
Forces are still held in Russia, may weU be worth many more in a year's time 
when the enemy may be able greatly to reinforce his Westem Air Defences. I 
am sure we should be missing great opportunities if we did not concentrate 
every available fortress and long range escort fighter as quickly as possible for 
the attack on our primary enemy.' 

Within a month, however, the Prime Minister began to take the opposite 
tack. Opinion within the Air Ministry split. Portal expressed skepticism at the 
claims of fighters downed by the B-17s and the chances of successful bombing 
of Germany. "It is rash to prophesy," he told Churchill, "but my own view is 
that only very large numbers (say 400 to 500) going out at one time will enable 
the Americans to bomb the Ruhr by daylight with less than 10% casualties and I 
doubt even then the bombing will be very accurate. "7 Portal indicated a willing- 
ness to delay tackling the problem with the Americans until the end of the year, 
after the U.S. elections and after the AAF had had a chance to ride out a press 
uproar over the inferior quality of its fighter aircraft.8 

The Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (PoUcy), Air Vice-Marshal John Slessor, 
the RAF senior officer with perhaps the clearest understanding of U.S. determi- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

nation to carry through with daylight precision bombing, and the civilian head of 
the RAF, Secretary of State for Air Archibald S. M. Sinclair, warned of the dan- 
gers of appearing to thwart U.S. designs. While admitting that Spaatz and his 
other American friends were "a bit unwarrantably cockahoop" over the success 
of their early raids, Slessor spoke of their professionalism and resolve to suc- 
ceed, concluding, "I have a feeling they will do it."9 

On October 16, Churchill sent a message to Harry Hopkins that the achieve- 
ment to date by the B-17s' shallow penetrations, under mainly RAF escort, 
"does not give our experts the same confidence as yours in the power of the day 
bomber to operate far into Germany." Churchill asked Hopkins to look into the 
matter "while time remains and before large mass production is finally fixed."10 
The Prime Minister expressed himself more bluntly within his own government. 
In a note on air policy he predicted a disaster for the Americans as soon as they 
ventured out from under British escort. Churchill suggested diverting the Ameri- 
cans to antisubmarine patrols and night bombing. As for U.S. aircraft produc- 
tion, Churchill urged that the Americans take up night-bomber production on a 
large scale, n 

Sinclair immediately took up the challenge. The Americans had come to a 
critical point in their allocation of air priorities, he said, and if the Prime Mini- 
ster pressed for conversion to night bombing, setting himself "against their cher- 
ished policy of daylight penetration," he would confound the very groups in the 
U.S. military that wished to build up big bomber forces in England during 1943 
and 1944: 

It would be a tragedy if we were to frustrate them on the eve of this great 
experiment. To ally ourselves with the American Navy against General Spaatz 
and General Eaker and the United States Air Force in this country, and to force 
them into diverting their highly trained crews to scaring U-Boats instead of 
bombing Germany would be disastrous. It would weaken and alienate the very 
forces in the United States on which we depend for support in a European as 
opposed to a Pacific strategy and for the production of heavy bombers as dis- 
tinct from the types which it is so much more easy to produce in quantity.'^ 

The Prime Minister replied that Sinclair's impassioned plea had not convinced 
him of the "merits" of daylight bombing or of the tactics to pursue toward the 

A few days later, Sinclair, speaking for himself and Portal, reiterated his 

We feel bound to wam you most seriously against decrying the American plan 

for daylight attack of GERMANY. We are convinced that it would be fatal to 
suggest to them at this of all times that the great bomber force they are planning 
to build up is no good except for coastal work and perhaps ultimately night 

Sinclair pointed out the difficulties Spaatz had encountered in training and keep- 


Failxjre and Reorganization 

Archibald Sinclair, 
British Secretary of State 
for Air, 1940-1945. 

ing an adequate force and spoke of his determination not to fly over Germany 
with inadequate numbers and half-trained gunners, 

In November Portal advised the Prime Minister against premature scuttling 
of the U.S. effort: "I do not think we can decide what to do until we have bal- 
anced the probability of success, which may not be very high but is not negligi- 
ble, against the results of success, if achieved." Success would have tremendous 
consequences in wastage for the Luftwaffe fighter forces and destruction of 
German industry: "It is solely because of the great prizes that would be gained 
by success that I am so keen to give the Americans every possible chance to 
achieve it." 

Portal suggested that the Americans also be encouraged to press on with 
night adaptations and alternative day methods in case daylight precision bomb- 
ing failed. He, too, repeated the fear that premature opposition to daylight 
bombing would lead to the commitment of U.S. resources to other theaters.l5 On 
November 21, Portal took the additional step of asking the RAF Delegation in 
Washington to press Arnold for an attack on Germany "at the earliest possible 
moment without waiting for the build-up of a very large force." The inability of 
the AAF to bomb the Reich weakened Portal's defense of not only the shipping 
priorities for the aviation fuel, persoimel, and supply requirements of the Eighth 
Air Force but U.S. bombing policy as well.16 

Churchill remained unconvinced. In mid-December he noted that the effect 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

of the U.S. bombing effort judged by the numbers of sorties, bombs dropped, 
and results obtained against the enormous quantities of men and material 
involved "has been very small indeed." During the previous two months he had 
"become increasingly doubtful of the daylight bombing of Germany by the 
American method." If his ally's plan failed, "the consequences will be grievous." 
The collapse of daylight bombing would stun U.S. public opinion, disrupt an 
industrial effort increasingly committed to production of bombers unsuitable for 
night work, and render useless the tens of thousands of American air personnel 
and their airfields in Britain. 17 Perhaps for domestic political reasons (a certain 
percentage of the British population objected to the ubiquitous presence of their 
Allies*), the large, seemingly useless mass of AAF persoimel in Britain (which 
would eventually be dwarfed by the million Americans in Britain before the 
Normandy invasion) particularly raised the Prime Minister's ire. He returned to 
it time and again in the course of the debate. Nonetheless, Churchill had fixed 
his policy: 

We should, of course, continue to give the Americans every encouragement 
and help in the experiment which they ardently and obstinately wish to make, 
but we ought to try to persuade them to give as much aid as possible (a) to sea 
work and (b) to night bombing, and to revise their production, including instru- 
ments and training for the sake of these objects.'* 

Churchill's persistence in recommending antisubmarine work reflected the 
uncertain status of the Battle of the Atlantic in late 1942. The British were losing 
merchant shipping faster than they could replace it. British import tonnage, the 
life's blood of an economy not blessed with overwhelming native supplies of 
raw materials and agricultural resources, had fallen from a prewar annual aver- 
age of 50 million tons to 23 million tons in 1942. Even the most stringent ship- 
ping measures could not close the gap between imports and domestic require- 
ments, which forced the British to consume internal stocks, reducing them to the 
minimum needed to support the British war effort. In early November, the 
British came hat in hand to Washington to plead for an additional 7 million tons 
of U.S.-built shipping, a request Roosevelt granted without even consulting mili- 
tary leaders.!^ But it would take months for American yards to deliver the ships. 
In the meantime, Churchill felt that a diversion of the U.S. bombing effort to sea 
work would pay greater dividends in saved shipping, while a reduction in U.S. 
forces stationed in Britain would conserve tonnage. 

* The British reduced this resentment to a single phrase: The Yanks were "overpaid, oversexed 
and over here!" At the end of August 1942, Eighth Air Force personnel in Britain numbered approxi- 
mately 30,000. By the end of November 1942, transfers to the Twelfth Air Force left only 23,000 
AAF personnel in England. The January 1943 rolls carried 36,000 personnel. See Craven and Cate, 
Torch to Pointblank, pp. 599-600. American forces as a whole dropped ftom 228,000 in October to 
135,000 at the end of the year, and to 105,000 by the end of February 1943. See Leighton and 
Coakley, Global Logistics, p. 487. 


Failure and Reorganization 

Sinclair continued to resist what he considered a doubtful policy. He admit- 
ted that the RAF might be wrong in its perception that the Americans would 
pick up their toys and go to the Pacific if threatened, but his officers were con- 
vinced that "any attempt to divert the American Air Forces from the function for 
which they have been trained to a subsidiary role over the sea or in secondary 
theaters would be fiercely resented and vigorously resisted." If daylight bomb- 
ing proved unsuccessful, the Americans themselves would abandon it and turn 
to night action. "They will not turn aside from day bombing," estimated Sinclair, 
"till they are convinced it has failed; they will not be convinced except by their 
own experience. "20 Writing just a few days before the Casablanca Conference, 
Sinclair counseled patience, advising that at the present stage it would be wrong 
to discourage the Americans from what might still be a successful experiment.2i 

All this drew an exasperated retort from Churchill. The Americans had not 
even begun their experiment and when they did, it could take four or five months 
to convince them one way or the other: 

Meanwhile I have never suggested that they should be "discouraged" by us, 
that is to say we should argue against their poUcy, but only that they should not 
be encouraged to persist obstinately and also that they should be actively urged 
to become capable of night bombing. What I am going to discourage actively, 
is the sending over of large quantities of these daylight bombers and their enor- 
mous ground staffs until the matter is settled one way or the other.^^ 

Churchill had not decided against daylight precision bombing, but the time 
was obviously fast approaching when daylight precision bombing must begin to 
justify itself by deed rather than potential. Without results the Prime Minister 
could no longer accept the expenditure of resources devoted to the project. But 
his threat to halt the buildup of U.S. heavy-bomber groups could, in the end, 
jeopardize the entire experiment. The precision bombing concept, whatever its 
emphasis on bombing accuracy, included a large measure of attrition, for both 
friend and foe, in its formula for success. Without sufficient logistical backup, 
including large numbers of air crews and bombers, the U.S. effort could not suc- 

The Americans probably first learned officially of Churchill's attitude in an 
exchange of memorandums between the American and British Chiefs of Staff in 
late December and early January. Within these memos, which served as the 
basis of initial discussion at Casablanca, each staff expressed its view on the 
most advantageous strategy for the Allies to follow in 1943. The Americans 
wished to hold the North African and Pacific theaters to minimum commitments 
while mounting a large-scale invasion from England into France. The British 
favored a continued offensive in the Mediterranean and a more gradual buildup 
of ground forces in Britain.23 The clash between the Allies' positions consti- 
tuted the major story of the conference. The British, who had the majority of 
troops imder arms, aircraft, and shipping, won the dispute, much to the chagrin 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

of Marshall and the Americans. Overall, U.S. air power in 1943 played a minor 
role in the struggle between U.S. advocacy of the direct strategy versus British 
support of the indirect approach. 

In their initial policy memos, both countries called for air offensives against 
Germany and Italy. The Americans urged "an integrated air offensive on the 
largest practicable scale against German production and resources, designed to 
achieve a progressive deterioration of her war effort."24 The British Chiefs 
echoed that call and recommended a combined U.S.-British heavy- and medium- 
bomber force of 3,000 planes in Britain by the end of 1943. Although the British 
fully endorsed night bombing, they questioned the efficacy of day bombing: 

In spite of the progress made during recent months by the United States 
Bomber Command in the bombing of targets in occupied territory, it is still an 
open question whether regular penetration of the defenses of Germany by day- 
light will be practicable without prohibitive losses. While every effort should 
continue to be made to achieve success by day, it is important to arrange that, if 
the daylight bombing of Germany proves impracticable, it will be possible to 
convert the United States Bomber Command from a primarily day to a primar- 
ily night force with the least possible delay and loss of efficiency." 

If he had not earlier received warnings from friends on the RAF staff, Arnold 
must have quickly learned from them after receiving the memo that it reflected 
the Prime Minister's opinions. 

The abandonment of day bombing, the rock on which all AAF hopes stood, 
was unthinkable. No matter how reasonable the British suggestion at least to 
consider and prepare for the possible failure of the experiment may have 
appeared, it could not be accepted lest it in any way undermine the concept. 
Once Arnold learned of Churchill's determination to question U.S. bombing, he 
marshaled some of his biggest guns — Spaatz, Andrews, and Eaker — to help per- 
suade "Big Boy" (Churchill's code name in the preconference planning) to 
change his mind. The night before the conference opened, January 13, Eaker 
was ordered to Casablanca. There he worked frantically to prepare a brief to pre- 
sent to the Prime Minister, who had consented to see him.26 On January 20, 
Spaatz, Andrews, and Eaker all met Churchill. 

Eaker proved by far the most convincing. Writing his memoirs eight years 
after the event, Churchill admitted his frustration with U.S. bombing: "It was 
certainly a terrible thing that in the whole of the last six months of 1942 nothmg 
had come of this immense deployment and effort, absolutely nothing, not a sin- 
gle bomb had been dropped on Germany." The intensity of Baker's defense, 
which included a promise to attack Germany proper with 100 bombers a mini- 
mum of two or three times before February 1 and frequently thereafter,27 and the 
telling point he made concerning the advantages of round-the-clock bombing of 
Germany, changed the Prime Minister's mind. "Considering how much had 
been staked on this venture by the United States and all they felt about it," stated 


Failure and Reorganization 

Churchill, "1 decided to back Eaker and his theme, and I turned around com- 
pletely and withdrew all my opposition to the daylight bombing by the 
Fortresses. "28 Eaker recalled that Churchill merely agreed to allow the AAF 
more time to prove its case. 29 

Baker's recollection seems more probable. As Churchill had said ten days 
before the conference, he was not opposed to daylight bombing; he simply 
wished to encourage nighttime bombing as a reasonable alternative. What 
Spaatz, Andrews, and Eaker accomplished was to confirm the advice the Prime 
Minister had already obtained from the RAF Staff and the Secretary of State for 
Air. The Americans would not abandon daylight bombing until they were con- 
vinced it had failed — and they were willing to devote vast amounts of human 
and material resources to ensure success. And an attack on daylight bombing 
could not help alienating the AAF, jeopardizing British aircraft allocations, and 
slowing the bomber buildup in Britain. The Americans had bet enormous stakes 
on daylight bombing and the Prime Minister, who always felt that night bomb- 
ing would offer a quicker payoff, realized that they could not be asked to hedge 
their bet at this particular time. Having won the main point of the conference by 
keeping the Mediterranean front open (discomforting the U.S. Army and its 
Chief of Staff in the process), the British knew it would be folly to risk the good 
will of the AAF and create hard feelings over a matter that would prove itself 
one way or the other in a few months. 

On January 27, Eaker partially fulfilled his promise to the Prime Minister. 
He dispatched ninety-one heavy bombers against the Emden U-boat yards. Four 
more raids into Germany, none of which was carried out by more than ninety- 
three planes, followed in February.30 

Ehiring his twenty-four-hour stay at Casablanca, Spaatz talked to both heads 
of government. He apparently left his meeting with Churchill and went directly to 
Roosevelt, with whom he met from 10:00 a.m. to 1 1:30 a.m. No official record of 
the meeting exists, and Spaatz did not refer to it in his records. Only Elliott 
Roosevelt, one of the President's sons, left an account. According to the younger 
Roosevelt, Spaatz explained the operational difficulties encountered in Tunisia, 
such as the lack of replacement planes and hard-surface runways, and spoke of 
the problems of combined command and the difficulty of serving under Tedder.31 
The reference to Tedder does not ring true. In fact, as of January 20, 1943, Spaatz 
had yet to come under that officer's command. What Spaatz may have explained 
was the difficulty of coordinating the operations of the EAC and the Twelfth Air 
Force around inadequate signal organizations and different staff procedures. It 
seems likely that Spaatz also spoke of daylight bombing, given (1) the British 
threat to it, (2) his famiharity with the AAF's troubled efforts in Europe, and (3) 
Roosevelt's, Churchill's, and Portal's questioning of Arnold during the confer- 
ence on the Eighth Air Force's failure to bomb Gennany.32 If Churchill contin- 
ued to press for conversion to night bombing, Roosevelt would have to be per- 
suaded to resist. Churchill's reversal, however, eliminated the need for special 
and immediate support from the President. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

While at Casablanca, Spaatz also discussed operations and organization with 
Marshall, Portal, and Arnold. 33 Arnold, no less frustrated than Churchill over 
the Eighth Air Force's inability to bomb Germany, had hard questions. Spaatz 
did his best to lance his chief's frustration before it came to a head. Years later 
Spaatz recalled, "I remember having a heart to heart talk with Hap, walking 
along the beach. We talked very, very frankly about daylight bombing and whether 
it should be carried out or not."34 Spaatz went on to predict that, in time, British 
night losses would exceed American daylight casualties. Arnold did not find 
Spaatz's or Eaker's arguments completely convincing. A month later he com- 
plained to Stratemeyer that both "gave the usual and expected reasons for not oper- 
ating against Germany. Their reasons for not operating more frequently, however, 
seemed very weak."35 

On January 21, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued their first directive on 
the bomber offensive from Britain. They ordered British and U.S. bomber com- 
manders to "take every opportunity to attack Germany by day, to destroy objec- 
tives that are unsuitable for night attack, to sustain continuous pressure on 
German morale, to impose heavy losses on the German day-fighter force, and to 
contain German fighter strength away from the Russian and Mediterranean the- 

Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Forces, and Air 
Chief Marshal Charles A. Portal, Chief of tlie Air Staff, RAF, at the Casablanca 
Conference, January 1943. 


Failure and Reorganization 

aters of war." The directive specified five targets in priority order: the Germans' 
submarine construction yards, aircraft industry, transportation, oil plants, and 
other targets in the German war economy. The directive also authorized attacks 
on Berlin, "which should be attacked when conditions are suitable for the attain- 
ment of especially valuable results unfavorable to the morale of the enemy or 
favorable to that of Russia." Finally, the directive ordered the Allied bomber 
commanders to support the Allied armies when it came time for the cross-chan- 
nel invasion.36 

Eaker had gained his chance to conduct the daylight bombing experiment. 
Unfortunately for him, the calls of other theaters for shipping and planes effec- 
tively reduced the Eighth Air Force to the lowest priority, starving him of res- 
ources and hamstringing him throughout his tenure in England. 

Operations, Personalities, and Teamwork 

The postponement of the Allied offensive in late December because of bad 
weather, exhaustion of front-line troops and aircraft, and the need to bring up 
reinforcements, most of them American, led to the formation of an overall U.S. 
ground command in Tunisia, the U.S. II Corps, which would occupy central 
Tunisia, taking a position to the right of the Allied line. The British 1st Army 
occupied the Allied left, while the under-equipped French XIX Corps occupied 
defensive positions in the relatively impassable center of the Allied lines. If all 
went well, Eisenhower hoped to have II Corps drive to the coast, separating the 
Germans in Tunisia from Rommel's forces retreating from Libya. Eisenhower 
exercised direct operational control over the U.S., British, and French national 
contingents. At the front no unified ground command existed. (For a view of the 
terrain in Tunisia, see Map 6.) 

The air organization paralleled the ground forces' division into national con- 
tingents. Spaatz ordered the EAC to support the British 1st Army and the 
Twelfth Air Force to support U.S. II Corps and all U.S. land forces in North 
Africa.37 The French had a small air force but depended on their Allies for air 
support. Neither the EAC's No. 242 Group nor the Twelfth's XII Air Support 
Command, the subordinate organizations charged with cooperating with the land 
forces, was assigned directly to the land forces they assisted.38 In fact, at no time 
during the campaign were AAF combat units, as opposed to observation and 
reconnaissance units, ever directly assigned or attached to U.S. Army units. 

When the Allies began to contemplate moving a large U.S. ground forma- 
tion into the front line, they may have considered creating an American army 
rather than an American corps to control the U.S. ground forces in Tunisia.39 On 
December 30, Spaatz and Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, the Commanding General of the 
American Fifth Army, then forming and training in the western Torch area, 
toured the battle area. Political considerations probably scotched the move. An 
American army would have competed for prestige with Anderson's 1st Army 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall, Com- 
manding General, U.S. n Corps, North 
Africa, January-Marcli 1943. 

and if defeated would have lost a commensurate amount for the inexperienced 
Americans. Furthermore, the size of the contemplated U.S. force, little more 
than a reinforced division to start with, hardly justified an army headquarters. 
Therefore, Eisenhower decided to assign a corps to the area. He then faced the 
problem of selecting an officer to head the largest American unit to fight the 
European Axis to date. 

Eisenhower quickly narrowed the choice to two men close at hand, the com- 
manders of the U.S. invasion task forces — Maj. Gen. George S. Patton in 
Casablanca and Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall in Oran. Bofli had some experi- 
ence in corps commands and in actual combat against the Germans. Patton, 
fifty-six years of age, had served in the cavalry after graduating from West 
Point. After his service in World War I, he had transferred to the armored forces. 
He played a large part in the great prewar (1941) Carolina and Louisiana 
maneuvers and, at the time of his selection for Torch, commanded the 
I Armored Corps at the Desert Training Center. It was during Patton's tenure 
there that Devers and others had become dissatisfied with the AAF support 
given to training. 

Patton, scion of one of the wealthiest families in California and a thoughtful, 
extremely well-read student of his profession, was a man of extraordinary 
strengths and failings. Perhaps the finest American combat groimd conmiander of 


Failure and Reorganization 

World War II, he was also an egomaniac and a mystic. Subject to violent emo- 
tions, he was a great actor who was not above throwing tantrums or kisses to get 
his way. At this stage of the war his eccentricities, such as rabid Anglophobia, 
seemed to outweigh his potential, so Eisenhower picked Fredendall instead.'^O 

Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall, at age fifty-eight, had done well in the 
Army, despite his failure to complete West Point. His specialty was training, and 
he had previously commanded the II Corps before it went overseas. It was dur- 
ing his command of II Corps in May 1942 that the AAF had botched a large- 
scale air-ground exercise at Fort Benning. Marshall had recommended him for 
Torch and Eisenhower had asked for him. He, like Patton, was senior to 
Eisenhower in service, but seniority never seemed to have been a serious prob- 
lem. The short, stocky Fredendall projected a gruff image every bit as rough as 
Patton's. He was outspoken and did not hesitate to criticize either his superiors 
or his subordinates. He formed judgments rapidly, often with insufficient or 
inaccurate information, but was impatient with the recommendations of his sub- 
ordinates. He had a habit of issuing bombastic, colorful, but imprecise messages. 
At a key point in the Kasserine engagements, for example, he told a subordinate, 
"I want you to go to Kasserine right away and pull a Stonewall Jackson. Take 
over up there." Although he did not lack personal courage, Fredendall, for rea- 
sons that are still obscure, ensconced himself in an elaborate dug-in headquarters 
established far behind the front, which he seldom left. The complex amazed and 
disgusted almost all outside observers.4l Soon after taking over on January 1, he 
developed extremely bad relations with Maj. Gen. Orlando P. Ward, the com- 
mander of his principal combat unit, the 1st Armored Division. He soon began 
to ignore Ward to deal directly with one of Ward's subordinates. Brig. Gen. Paul 
M. Robinett. Nor did Fredendall have any affection for the French or the British; 
he particularly disliked General Anderson.42 (See Chart 1, Allied Chain of 
Command, January 6, 1943.) 

Fredendall certainly appears to have been misjudged by Eisenhower given 
his failure in battle seven weeks later and his replacement by Patton. On 
December 10, Eisenhower rated Fredendall behind Patton, remarking, "Patton I 
think comes closest to meeting every requirement made on a commander. Just 
after him 1 would rate Fredendall, although I do not believe the latter has the 
imagination in foreseeing and preparing for possible jobs of the future that 
Patton possesses."43 On February 4, Eisenhower recommended promotions to 
lieutenant general for both Patton and Fredendall, after assuring Marshall that he 
had "now eliminated from my mind all doubts I had as to Fredendall. "44 Yet, 
also in a February 4 message, Eisenhower critized Fredendall 's complaints 
about the British, his command's lack of road discipline which caused extensive 
traffic jams and offered tempting targets to Axis aircraft, and the "habit of some 
of our generals in staying too close to their command posts."45 The letter indi- 
cated that Eisenhower may not have rid himself of doubts after all. 

Fredendall, surprisingly, had no problems getting along with the successive 


Chart 1 
Allied Chain of Command 
January 5, 1943 


D. D. Eisenhower 

Allied Air Force 

Maj Gen 
C.A. Spaatz 

British 1st Army 

K.A.N. Anderson 


U.S. II Corps 

Maj Gen 
L.R. Fredendall 

French XiX Corps 

A. Juin 

Air Force 

Brig Gen 
J. H. Doolittle 

Air Command 

Air Marshal 
W. Welsh 

CiNC Naval Forces 

Adm A. Cunningham 

Failure and Reorganization 

commanding officers of the XII Air Support Command (XII ASC), the Twelfth 
Air Force unit charged with II Corps air support. Because he did not move his 
headquarters, the commanders of the XII ASC, who had co-located their head- 
quarters with Fredendall's, had no problem maintaining contact with him or set- 
ting up semipermanent communications facilities with their subordinate air 
units. And despite his refusal to help the French, Fredendall did not interfere 
unduly with the operations of the XII ASC. Col. Paul L. Williams, who led the 
XII ASC from late January to the end of the campaign, noted in an official 
report, "General FREDENDALL and General PATTON both stated in sub- 
stance, 'Don't wait for us to order air missions, you know what the situation is, 
just keep pounding them."46 

The lack of air-ground teamwork between II Corps and XII ASC was more 
the fault of XII ASC than of II Corps. Frequent changes of command, assign- 
ments, and stations robbed the XII ASC of the continuity of training and cooper- 
ation with familiar ground units necessary for ground support work. Doolittle 
had hastily formed the XII Air Support Command, under the command of Brig. 
Gen. John K. Cannon, even later than the rest of the Twelfth Air Force when the 
Casablanca invasion was added to Torch. Once ashore in Casablanca, more 
than 1,000 miles from Tunis, the XII Air Support Command trained with Clark's 
Fifth Army. When H Corps entered Tunisia, XII ASC split in two, part going 
with II Corps and a small part, XII ASC Detachment, staying with Clark. 
Carmon took over XII Bomber Command, and Brig. Gen. Howard A. Craig left 
Spaatz's headquarters to take over XII ASC. This would seem to have been an 
inspired choice, because Craig had just received the tablets containing the com- 
mandments governing the application of close air support from the hands of 
Coningham, but Craig failed to gain Doolittle's confidence. In the midst of the 
German counterattack of January 18-25 (described later), Doolittle wrote to 
Spaatz that although Craig was a brilliant staff officer and one of the AAF's 
exceptional planners and organizers, his current job did not suit his capabilities. 
Doolittle suggested that Craig move to the XII ASC Detachment with Clark and 
that Col. Paul L. Williams replace him. Of Williams, Doolittle said, "Williams is 
better suited as a result of experience and temperament to command and lead 
combat units in support of ground troops in an extremely active forward area. "47 
The next day, January 21, Spaatz sent Williams to the XU ASC, noting that 
Craig would become Tedder's chief of staff in the coming Casablanca-dictated 
air reorganization.48 The XII ASC now had its third commander in three weeks, 
two of whom had had no chance to become acquainted with its personnel, its 
condition, and the troops and ground commander it supported. This switch 
occurred precisely when a German counterattack against the French XIX Corps 
contributed to the Allies' disjointed air response. 

Beyond its unfamiliar leaders the XII ASC suffered imder many operational 
handicaps. The rainy season limited operations and turned the airfields to mud. 
The airfields themselves were too distant from the front lines and meagerly 


Failure and Reorganization 

equipped. Insufficient logistics and lack of experience, already cited, contributed 
to a very low operational ready rate, subtracting even more planes from the com- 
mand's order of battle. The XII ASC had two further problems. (1) It lacked 
radar coverage of its front. This cut down its warning and reaction times to 
German air operations and forced it to rely on chance sweeps to catch German 
aircraft aloft or on their fields. The Germans, who had complete radar coverage, 
avoided these sweeps. Their dive-bombers would merely land for five minutes 
or so until the Allied aircraft passed and then resume their deadly work. (2) By 
mid- January the command had already fought several of its units to exhaustion. 
Doolittle reported to Spaatz that the Twelfth's entire striking force consisted of 
nine groups with a total of 270 planes — only 48 percent of their full strength.49 
Doolittle's figures included the Twelfth's heavy bombers. The Xll ASC opera- 
tions report showed only twenty-six P-40s, nineteen P-39s, and thirty-eight A- 
20s operational on January 1 3 — numbers that rose to fifty-two P-40s, twenty- 
three P-39s, twenty-seven A-20s, and eight DB-7s by January 26.50 Under these 
circumstances the chances that II Corps and XII ASC could form an effective 
air-ground team in a few weeks were nil. 

The British half of Spaatz 's Allied Air Force suffered from many of the 
same problems, but personalities played an even greater role in disrupting its 
operations. Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. N. Anderson, because of his wartime experi- 
ences, had simply never acquired an understanding of air operations. During the 
fall of France, he had served as a brigade commander in the British Expeditionary 
Force. Shortly before Dunkirk, he took over a decimated division and, for the 
next two and one-half years, he trained troops in England. His only memories of 
air were searing ones of the overwhelming ground-support effort of the 
Luftwaffe and the inadequate response of the RAF. His first experiences in 
North Africa confirmed these memories as his supply ships went down at 
Bougie, his forward lines were dive-bombed incessantly, and the Luftwaffe 
maintained air superiority over his front. Understandably, he tended to be defen- 
sive-minded as far as air was concerned. 

Nor did Anderson's personality facilitate cooperation. He was an unusually 
reserved and reticent Scot, stubborn in his opinions and congenitally pessimistic 
in his assessments of military operations.5i During the preparations for Torch, 
these qualities occasionally manifested themselves. He clashed with the British 
navy over use of landing craft. His American subordinate for the Algiers inva- 
sion, Maj. Gen. Charles W. Ryder, was warned, upon receiving his assignment, 
to get along with Anderson "no matter how difficult it may be."52 Anderson's 
chief of staff, Brigadier C.V.O'N. McNabb, had all of Anderson's poor quali- 
ties, in spades. He was reticent to the point of secretiveness, and few Americans 
could approach him, let alone come to know him.53 

Anderson's relations v^th the RAF commanders proved particularly acrimo- 
nious. RAF semiofficial histories admit that Air Marshal William Welsh's and 
Anderson's mutual antipathy took precedence over the conduct of their duties.54 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Almost immediately after the EAC and 1st Army landed in North Africa, 
arrangements between the two men broke down. Anderson and Welsh were to 
arrange air support together, but they soon went their separate ways. Welsh 
stayed in Algiers to supervise air defense and convoy protection while Anderson 
moved forward to a spartan headquarters, deficient in signal organization but 
close to the front. Welsh's failure to follow disappointed Anderson. Instead, Air 
Commodore G. M. Lawson, with a small RAF command post, moved forward 
with Anderson and attempted to meet his air-support demands. Further forward, 
EAC had a wing commander with the 78th Division and with British 5th Corps, 
which took over the British front at the end of November. Both men had insuffi- 
cient rank for their task of cooperating with Army counterparts who outranked 
them by at least two grades. The formation of No. 242 Group, a headquarters 
unit commanding all British aircraft assigned to the support of the 1st Army, its 
placement under Lawson's command, and its co-location with 5 Corps improved 
the system slightly. However, EAC Headquarters failed to maintain close liaison 
with No. 242 Group. In addition Welsh, consumed by his other duties, made few 
planes available to No. 242 Group and when Lawson ordered his fighter 
squadrons out on ground strafing missions, Welsh stopped him. By January 4, 
1943, Lawson had only a handful of fighter-bombers available to him.55 

Neither the Americans nor the British had a fully functioning air-ground 
support team. By the middle of February this lack of air-ground cohesiveness 
would hamper the Allied response to the German counterattack at the Kasserine 

As II Corps came into the line during the first two weeks of January, the 
Allies planned to use it for a drive to the coast to separate the Axis forces in 
Tunisia from Rommel's retreating forces. Fredendall made preparations for that 
attack until mid- January, when logistical difficulties and an unexpectedly rapid 
approach by Rommel led Eisenhower to order him to assume a defensive stance. 
From January 18 to 25, a counterattack by the Axis forces in Timisia on the cen- 
ter of the Allied line gained important mountain passes and alarmed the Allies 
before it was contained. Allied tactical air flew several useful missions in the 
course of this assault.56 A few days later, from January 30 to February 3, the 
sparring between Allied and Axis forces shifted to the south. Once again, the 
Axis gained key passes from the French, especially the Faid Pass, which could 
serve as a juraping-off point for attacks on II Corps' main supply depot at 
Tebessa and the airfields at Thelepte. Sandy soil conditions, which promoted 
excellent drainage, allowed Thelepte to operate in any weather, a crucial factor 
in Tunisian air operations. Axis dive-bombing attacks harassed the Americans, 
particularly during an unsuccessful U.S. attack on the village of Maknassey. One 
German air attack on January 31, 1943, struck a U.S. infantry battalion aboard a 
truck convoy in daylight, causing substantial casualties.57 

The Allies remained on the defensive at the beginning of February as 
Rommel's forces joined their comrades in Tunisia and prepared to take the 


Failure and Reorganization 

offensive before Montgomery's British 8th Army could come to the assistance 
of Eisenhower's forces. The Germans began the so-called "Battle of the 
Kasserine Pass" by breaking out of the Paid Pass and seizing the important 
crossroad at Sidi Bou Zid. They continued forward, capturing several positions, 
including Thelepte, by February 17. On February 20, under the eyes of Rommel 
himself, Axis forces stormed the Kasserine Pass, badly damaging several units 
of the U.S. 1st Armored Division. At that point Allied defenses stiffened. The 
Axis, concerned about the approach of Montgomery and their own lack of sup- 
plies, began to withdraw from the Kasserine Pass on February 22. They were 
pursued only hesitantly by Allied ground forces, who reoccupied the entire pass 
by February 24. This withdrawal ended the largest Axis attack of the campaign 
and gave them a tactical victory but produced no strategic effect. The Allies 
soon replaced their heavy losses in men and materiel. 

This summary of ground operations outlines the campaign's events in the 
winter of 1942-1943. The activities of Spaatz and of Allied air-ground opera- 
tions during the period are the subjects of the following pages. 

Before the decisions affecting air organization made at Casablanca could 
take effect, the German counterattack of January 18 to 25 struck the boundary 
between the British and French forces in Tunisia, forcing them to give ground 
and, in the process, revealing serious deficiencies in overall coordination among 
the different Allied forces. In one instance, the Xllth Air Support Command, 
acting under FredendaU's orders, refused to send planes over an area for which 
RAF No. 242 Group had responsibility .58 

Spaatz, after inspecting facilities in Marrakech, returned to Eisenhower's 
headquarters (AFHQ) in Algiers on January 21. There he participated in an 
emergency conference on the German attack against the French, during which 
he informed Eisenhower of the new air arrangements mandated at Casablanca.59 
The conference minutes noted, "It was evident also that collaboration by air 
forces was faulty to date, due particularly to the absence of an air headquarters 
with executive authority as far forward as Advanced Headquarters [General 
Anderson's headquarters in Constantine]."^^ Eisenhower remedied this problem 
by directing Spaatz "to place at Advanced Headquarters immediately an officer 
who will be in executive control [in command of] the air forces supporting 
General Fredendall and General Anderson.''^! Eisenhower authorized that air 
officer to secure the assistance of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force if 
specifically requested, but required him to "receive his instructions for battle 
from General Anderson so far as they affect all air forces allotted to the support 
of the ground armies." 

Eisenhower had taken a large step toward improving air support, but in mak- 
ing the air commander subordinate to the ground commander he overlooked an 
essential piece of the more successful British method developed under Coning- 
ham — the equality of land and air. In his own mind, at least, Eisenhower 
remained faithful to the strictures of FM 31-35. As late as January 15, 1943, he 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

could write, "We have a published doctrine that has not been proved faulty."62 
On January 22, Spaatz assigned Brig. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter as Acting Chief of 
the Allied Air Support Command (AASC). When Coningham arrived, he 
relieved Kuter. (See Chart 2, Allied Chain of Command, January 30, 1943.) 

In another action resulting from the emergency conference, Eisenhower 
charged Anderson with the task of "co-ordinating" the entire front. Three days 
later, on January 24, Eisenhower made Anderson responsible for the employ- 
ment of U.S. forces, and that evening the French commander. General Alphonse 
Juin, agreed to place his forces under Anderson. The western Tunisian front now 
had one overall ground and air commander. It did not yet have an air-ground 

At this point, Spaatz replaced Brig. Gen. Howard A. Craig with Col. Paul L. 
Williams as Commander of the XII Air Support Command. Williams, who had 
specialized in attack and observation aviation before the war and had com- 
manded air support formations in the prewar maneuvers, stayed with XII ASC 
until the campaign's end. Spaatz had brought him to Britain and then to North 
Africa precisely because of his experience in army cooperation. The Xn ASC 
and No. 242 Group made up the bulk of Kuter's new command.63 

In Algiers, Spaatz began a round of meetings that would take him to Cairo and 
back. On January 24, he met Arnold, who had come direcfly from Casablanca. 
They decided to equip all AAF fighter units in Britain only with P-47s — a deci- 
sion that would free all P-38s then based in Britain for deployment to Africa. This 
key decision, based in part on operational necessity and in part on logistical consid- 
erations, deprived the Eighth Air Force of the long-range escort fighters it would 
need to protect its deep-penetration operations over Germany. It demonstrated the 
AAF's refusal to accept the need for long-range escort for strategic bombers as the 
highest priority. Late on January 26, Spaatz left Algiers for Cairo and, upon arriv- 
ing the next morning, joined in three days of discussions with Tedder, Arnold, 
Andrews, and Maj. Gen. Louis H. Brereton, the Commanding General of the Ninth 
Air Force, to settle the details of the new Allied organization in the Medi- 
terranean.64 He returned to Algiers on January 31. 

On February 4, in the wake of another Axis thrust, Spaatz flew to Constantine. 
That evening he and Brig. Gen. John K. Cannon called on Maj. Gen. Lucian K. 
Truscott, Eisenhower's representative at the front, to inform him of their inten- 
tion to visit Fredendall's II Corps Headquarters the next day. During their visit, 
Spaatz elaborated on his own views toward the use of aviation in conjunction 
with ground operations: "It was a mistake to use up all of one's force in an inde- 
cisive operation; the air force should be used to hit the soft parts of the enemy 
and in return to protect the soft parts of one's own force; and only in the event of 
an all-out decisive engagement was the loss of a whole force to be risked.''^^ 

The next day, Spaatz and his party traveled to Tebessa to meet Anderson, 
who had apparently come south to discuss future operations with Fredendall.66 
Once again, the conversation turned to air support. Brigadier McNabb, 


Chart 2 
Allied Chain of Command 
January 30, 1943 


D. D. Eisenhower 


— r 



Allied Air Force 

British 1st Army 

U.S. 11 Corps 

French XIX Corps 



Maj Gen 


C.A. Spaatz 

K.A.N. Anderson 

L.R. Fredendall 

A. Juin 

■ ' ■ 

■ ■ 

■ ■ 


Air Force 

Brig Gen 
J. H. Doolittle 

Air Command 

Air Marshal 
W. Welsh 

Allied Air 

Brig Gen 
L.S. Kuter 

CINC Naval Forces 

Adm A. Cunningham 

Operational Control 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Anderson's chief of staff, referring to a local Allied counterattack planned for 
the next day,67 gave the 1st Army's views: 

. . . General Anderson wanted the whole air effort put on the ground positions 
immediately in front of our troops in the coming offensive, in as much as the 
ground striking force was weak in artillery. General Anderson had stated the 
day before that this should be the main effort of aU air strength available, that 
this was the primary job to be done and that he was not interested in the bomb- 
ing of enemy airdromes such as that at Gabes.** 

Here was an airman's bSte noire. Anderson wanted to ignore counterair opera- 
tions to use support aircraft as artillery pieces. 

After lunch, the party proceeded to General Fredendall's dug-in command 
post, where they encountered more evidence of the Allied groimd commander's 
parochial view of air support. Generals Spaatz, Fredendall, Truscott, and Kuter 
and Colonel Williams all participated in an informal discussion. Fredendall, no 
doubt recalling the Axis dive-bombing against his troops in the recent attack on 
Maknassey, wanted full air cover for the first two days of his attack in order to 
protect his troops and artillery. Spaatz observed: "He wanted his men to see 
some bombs dropped on the position immediately in front of them, and if possi- 
ble, some dive bombers brought down in sight of his troops." Spaatz had practi- 
cally used up his medium-bomber and P-40 fighter groups in air support, and the 
replacement rate of both pilots and machines would not allow for continued 
wastage on such an extravagant scale. He preferred that the air force hit enemy 
airfields, tank parks, troop convoys, and motor transport concentrations while 
protecting Allied vulnerabilities such as supply lines. If he "maintained a con- 
stant 'umbrella' over one small section of the front, with only shallow penetra- 
tion by [his own] bombers and fighters, then [his] available force would be dissi- 
pated without any lasting effect." Spaatz insisted that the "hard core" of any 
army ought to have the ability to defend itself against dive-bombing. Fredendall 
granted the last point, but admonished that if he did not get forty-eight hours' air 
cover from the start, the offensive would fail.69 in any case, Eisenhower canceled 
the contemplated offensive, and the exact nature of air cover for the land forces 
was unresolved. 

This was not the first run-in between Spaatz and Fredendall. On January 17, 
Spaatz had flown to Tebessa, at Doolittle's urging, to straighten out air support 
matters. Doolittle had passed word that Craig, the Commander of the XII ASC, 
could not "adequately" handle the situation. Spaatz discovered that Craig would 
have brought the situation under control if it had not been for the interference of 
Fredendall who, among other things, willfully compromised the security of the 
highly secret radar on the night-fighting British Beaufighters. He had ordered 
them to patrol over Axis air space — an action contrary to Anglo-American 
agreements. Spaatz went on to II Corps Headquarters to try to hammer out some 
modus Vivendi. He laconically noted in his diary: 


Failure and Reorganization 

Informed him that the arbitrary decisions made by him with reference to the use 
of air forces by Craig at Tebessa resulted in confusion, and recited the 
instances. Told him that the only logical place for the Ground Support 
Commander was alongside of him to prevent him from making damn fool deci- 

Fredendall agreed temporarily to abide by Craig's decisions.'^O 

When Spaatz returned to Algiers the following day, he flew on the same air- 
craft as Brig. Gen. Ray E. Porter, an infantry officer returning from Fredendall's 
staff for reassignment as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Organization and Training 
Division, G-3, in Washington, D.C. This was a key post for the approval of offi- 
cial War Department doctrine, and Porter would later have a hand in incorporat- 
ing the North African experiences into new air doctrine. Porter expressed views 
on air support that Spaatz must have found refreshing. He noted that the vast 
majority of all U.S. casualties attributable to dive-bombing resulted from the 
single Axis raid near Maknassey in which an incompetent battalion commander 
had brought his men forward, in daylight, in a truck convoy jammed nose to tail. 
Porter "further stated that after one or two dive bomber attacks, the men could 
take care of themselves and were no longer seriously affected in their morale." 
Finally, Porter echoed an opinion becoming increasingly common at the front: 
"He believed a defensive fear complex was being built up at 2nd Corps as evi- 
denced by their elaborate bomb proofs for their Headquarters, which in its initial 
location was so well concealed as to present very little chance for a bombing 

After three months of combat operations, the top Allied ground commanders 

and the top Allied air commander were still unable to agree on a satisfactory 
ground-support method. Fredendall, backed by his interpretation of War 
Department doctrine, and Anderson, untutored in the air-ground experiences of 
the British 8th Army, wanted to use aircraft either as artillery or as an aerial 
defensive garrison over key points. The airmen rejected these ideas as impracti- 
cable. They wished to employ their forces to attack the enemy air force and 
other vulnerable areas behind the front lines. At the point of combat, the airmen 
reasoned, the ground troops had the equipment and training to fend for them- 
selves; in their view, infantry, armor, and artillery did not constitute the "soft 
points" of the army. The ground commanders found this stand unacceptable. 
The logjam would continue until mid-February when the major German attack 
at the Kasserine Pass and Coningham's arrival to command the Northwest 
Afiican Tactical Air Force would offer the begiimings of a solution. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Reorganization and the Kasserine Pass 

Spaatz remained hard at work on the air reorganization until its implementa- 
tion. He wrote to Arnold on February 8 that he hoped to have the first stage in 
place in a few days. His staff had already prepared the orders and they were only 
awaiting Tedder's return from London to issue them.72 To the Chief of the Air 
Staff, Maj. Gen. George Stratemeyer, Spaatz confided: 

The most serious difficulty which I see confronting us is the different concep- 
tion which obtains in the RAF and in our own War Department as to the place 
of aviation. It is difficult to have aviation treated as a co-equal with the Army 
and Navy in our set up, whereas the RAF will not submit to being considered in 
any other way. A number of instances have developed indicating that the 
ground general considers his air support as a fundamental part of his forces, 
even to the point of dictating as to how to do the job. Such employment, I am 
afraid, will not be accepted by the RAF. With Coningham, a full-fledged vet- 
eran of the Battle of the Mediterranean with all of his prestige behind it, at the 
head of our Air Support command, it can readily be seen that something is 
bound to break out in a very short period." 

Tedder and Coningham returned from London on February 14, the same day 
the Germans launched their greatest attack of the campaign. In the midst of this 
series of engagements, which included the sanguinary American defeat at the 
Kasserine Pass, the Allies instituted the command changes agreed on at 
Casablanca: Fleet Adm. Andrew Cunningham became Naval Commander in 
Chief, Mediterranean; General Harold L. Alexander became Deputy Commander 
in Chief of the Allied Force and head of the 18 Army Group, comprising the 
British 1st and 8th Armies, the French XIX Corps, and the U.S. II Corps; Tedder 
became head of the Mediterranean Air Command (MAC). (See Chart 3, 
Organization of Allied Air Power, February 18, 1943.) 

MAC Headquarters consisted of a small policy and planning staff, "a brain 
trust without executive authority or domestic responsibilities."'^'* jn the North 
African Theater, MAC's operations came under AFHQ's control. There MAC 
operated through its own subordinate command, the Northwest African Air 
Forces (NAAF), under the command of Spaatz. NAAF began operations on 
February 18, when the Allied Air Force disbanded. The U.S. Twelfth Air Force 
and British Eastern Air Command, joined on February 21 by the Anglo- 
American Western Desert Air Force, made up NAAF's major subelements: the 
Northwest African Tactical Air Force (NATAF), the Northwest African Coastal 
Ak Force (NACAF), and the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF). 
Spaatz's own headquarters was transferred virtually intact from the Allied Air 
Force. Spaatz set up an operational headquarters in Constantine, near Doolittle's 
and Coningham's headquarters, and left an administrative section in Algiers. 
Throughout the NAAF and its subordinate air forces, AAF and RAF personnel 
occupied alternating command and staff positions down to, but not including. 


Organization of Allied Power 
February 18, 1943 

Northwest African 
Strategic Air Force 
Maj Gen 
J. H. DoolitUe 

Air Command 

Air Chief Marshal 
Arthur Tedder 

Northwest African 
Air Forces 

Lt Gen Carl Spaatz 

Northvrast African 
Air Service Command 

Brig Gen 
D.H. Dunton 

Northwest African 
Tactical Air Force 

Air Marshal 
Arthur Coningham 


Malta Air Command 

Air Vice Marshal 
. Keith Park 


Middle East Command 

Air Chief Marshal 
W. Sholto Douglas 

Northwest African 
Training Command 

Brig Gen 
J. K. Cannon 

Northwest African 
Coastal Air Force 

Air Vice Marshal 
Hugh P. Lloyd 

RAF Mideast 

Northwest African 
Reconnaissance Wing 
Lt Col Elliott Roosevelt 

Ninth Air Force 

Maj Gen 
L.H. Brereton 

Spaatz and the Ak War in Europe 

The new Allied leadership, February 18, 1943. Bottom row, left to right: General 
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Air Chief Marshal Arthur W. Tedder, General Harold R. L. 
G. Alexander, and Admiral Andrew B. Cunningham; top row, left to right: Harold 
Macmillan (British Minister, AFHQ), Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Commodore 
Royer M. Dick, and Air Vice-Marshal H. E. P. Wigglesworth. 

the individual combat unit level. This interleaving greatly expanded the practice 
of combined British and U.S. headquarters that the Allies had begun with the 
establishment of AFHQ before the North African invasion.'^ 

The concept of dedicating entire air forces to separate, yet cooperating, tac- 
tical or strategic roles became AAF standard operating procedure throughout 
the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations. In the case of NAAF, 
however, it should be noted that the designation Strategic was something of a 
misnomer, in that the Northwest African Strategic Air Force did not attack 
strategic industrial targets but confined itself to what could be called grand tac- 
tical targets, enemy lines of supply, and logistical support. 

NAAF also absorbed the British air cooperation doctrines conceived by 
Woodall and employed by Coningham. Allied ground leaders would henceforth 
grudgingly concede the principle that a single airman must command all the air 
forces committed to the ground battle, because aircraft, unlike other combat 
arms, had free rein over the combat zone and should deploy in overwhelming 
force at the decisive points and not fritter away their strength in penny-packet 
formations at the ground commander's whim. 


Failure and Reorganization 

The organization of a combined Allied staff to the lowest feasible level 
served as a template for the organization of the Allied Expeditionary Force, 
which later conducted the cross-channel invasion into France. This close associ- 
ation with the RAF had an important side benefit for the AAF, which managed 
to cloak itself in the RAF's independent status and thus free itself from some of 
the more irksome restrictions inherent in its role as a subordinate part of the U.S. 
Army. Spaatz, for example, participated in Allied command conferences as an 
equal to his ground and naval opposite numbers rather than as an air adviser to 
the American ground force conmiander. 

The reorganization also embraced the logistical support of Allied air power in 
North Africa. Brig. Gen. John Cannon became the head of the Northwest African 
Training Command, and Brig. Gen. Delmar Dunton formed the Northwest 
African Air Service Command from the XII Air Service Command and the main- 
tenance organization of the Eastern Air Command.^6 

In one of their first actions after establishing the NAAF, Spaatz and Tedder 
met Eisenhower on February 17 and gained his agreement 

that air support should function very much along the principles previously in 
operation with 8th Army and Alexander. It was understood that this means in 
general that the decision and needs of the ground army are of paramount impor- 
tance, and that the element of decision as to type of operation must rest with the 
Army commander. 

Eisenhower, however, allowed the air conmiander to determine all matters of 
technique and forces employed.77 This concession by Eisenhower gave XII ASC 
more operational flexibility. 

Coningham's arrival at 18 Army Group Headquarters on the same day, 
February 17, allowed Allied air power to widen this initial and significant con- 
cession by Eisenhower. Upon assuming command on February 23, the New 
Zealander promptly put the Northwest African Tactical Air Force into operation 
according to his own principles. The flying of defensive umbrellas over ground 
formations was to cease at once. All future missions would be offensive and 
would be conducted as aggressively as possible. Furthermore, the prime target 
would be unarmored motor transport and troops; there would be no more con- 
centration on "tank-busting. "78 These directions, however, did not come into 
force until March 2, after the Kasserine fighting had endedJ^ The location of 
Coningham's headquarters with Alexander's ended Anderson's de facto control 
of tactical air. 

General Alexander's assumption of the command of the 18 Army Group 
also proved beneficial. Alexander, the British Army Commander in Chief, 
Mediterranean, and Eisenhower's deputy in charge of land forces, had served as 
Montgomery's and Coningham's commanding officer in the El Alamein cam- 
paign. He, too, had absorbed the new methods of air support, and his acceptance 
of them greatly eased the heretofore strained relations between the ground and 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Air Marshal William L. Welsh, Air Officer Commanding, Eastern Air Command, 
1942-1943, inspecting an honor guard before his departure to the United States as 
head of the RAF's delegation in Washington, D.C. 

air forces. On February 23, Spaatz's diary noted with satisfaction: "General 
Alexander supports the Air Force fully in their objection to the air umbrella 
rather than air offensive operations. This is a complete reversal of the previous 
attitude of the Army under Anderson and Fredendall."80 

The assumption of command by Coningham, the centralization of control of 
tactical air under him, and his location with Alexander solved the personality 
problems of the old EAC. Anderson, with his defensive attitude, was removed 
from his position in charge of allocation of tactical air. Welsh and Lawson were 
replaced and sent elsewhere. Welsh spent the rest of the war exiled to the United 
States as head of the RAF Delegation. When Spaatz took over the Allied Air 
Force in the begirming of January he had recognized the pair's inability to cope 
with Anderson. Because Spaatz controlled them and not Anderson, he had rec- 
ommended their replacement then and there. Portal, who apparently assumed 
that Spaatz wished to dispose of Welsh because Welsh outranked him, objected 
to U.S. interference in internal RAF matters,8i reprieving Welsh and Lawson for 
six weeks. By that time Tedder presumably had informed Portal about the true 
state of affairs. 


Failure and Reorganization 

No matter how effective the experienced Alexander-Coningham air-ground 
team would prove in the long run, it could not change the situation in a day. 
Allied tactical air did not make its presence felt during the Kasserine engage- 
ments until after the Germans had begun their voluntary withdrawal. On the first 
day of the offensive, February 14, the XII ASC mounted 391 sorties as opposed 
to 360 to 375 German sorties.82 The Germans were more effective, but the large 
number of U.S. sorties gave a hint that the balance might soon tip in the Allies' 
favor. By February 16, the XII ASC reported a total operational strength of sev- 
enty-six Spitfires, twenty-seven P-39s, and twenty-four A-20s. The 33d Fighter 
Group and its P-40s had withdrawn to refit on February 9. The Spitfires of the 
31st Fighter Group and two-thirds of the 52d Fighter Group replaced it.83 Both 
air forces maintained their effort through February 16, but bad weather for the 
next five days hampered Allied air operations. On February 18, the enemy 
advance forced the XII ASC to evacuate its forward fields at Thelepte, requiring 
it to destroy thirty-four unserviceable planes and 50,000 gallons of aviation fuel. 
In two days the Americans had lost forty-two planes. The clouds and rain finally 
cleared on February 22, when the Xn ASC, disorganized by its retreat from 
Thelepte and operating from one overcrowded field (Youks-les-Bains) with only 
a single steel-plank runway, flew 304 sorties and lost only eleven planes. 

On the evening of February 22 the Germans began their retreat, and for the 
next few days British and U.S. aircraft punished their retiring columns with 
increasing effect. Rommel later recorded, "The bad weather now ended and 
from midday [February 23] onward we were subjected to hammer-blow air 
attacks by the U.S. air force in the Feriana-Kasserine area, of weight and con- 
centration hardly surpassed by those we had suffered at Alamein."84 During the 
critical period of February 20 to 24, Coningham had also had the strategic 
bombers placed at his disposal. Instead of complaining about delays imposed by 
enemy air, ground leaders began to note improvement. On February 25, 
Eisenhower observed, "The Air Force is now better organized, is well sorted out 
and operating efficiently."85 

In January and February 1943, Allied ground and air leaders sought to 
answer the question of who should have ultimate control of the theater's limited 
air assets. Later in the war such a question would not have arisen because the 
overwhelming number of aircraft then available to the Allies made it possible to 
supply simultaneously the need of the ground commanders for battle-line sup- 
port and the need of the air commanders for counterair and supply-line strikes. 
The Casablanca Conference imposed an air command structure on the theater 
that supplied an air chain of command separate from the ground forces. This for- 
ma! structure, however, would have meant little if Eisenhower had continued to 
allow his ground commanders to set air priorities. He who sets priorities controls 
the allocation of resources. Spaatz, alone in January, and, with Tedder's help in 
February, persuaded Eisenhower to allow air commanders a greater voice in the 
control of their own forces. Eisenhower probably assented in part because he 


Spaatt; and the Air War in Exjrope 

had lost confidence in his American ground force commander, Fredendall, 
whom he relieved on March 6. 

Once the air commanders could determine their own priorities, the Casa- 
blanca reorganization became decisive because it provided an efficient means to 
control available air power. Coningham's ability to call in all the Allied power 
needed (an ability denied his predecessors) allowed him to contest the air over 
the Kasserine Pass and to heavily attack the retreating German columns. In the 
next eleven weeks, the air commanders' ability to coordinate all of their resources 
on key points would prove important to Allied success. 


Chapter 6 

The Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 
(February-May 1943) 

So far as I know, Spaatz and I see eye to eye on every single 
thing that comes up; and we believe that we have learned 
lots of things that were, before the war either not under- 
stood, or not fully appreciated, either by our Ground Forces 
or our Air Forces.' 

— Eisenhower to Arnold, May 2, 1943 

The reorganization that produced the Northwest African Air Force (NAAF) 
and introduced the air support team and new procedures enhanced the efficiency 
of Allied air power. It was the catalyst that enabled the disparate air elements 
present in North Africa to redirect their efforts to the task at hand — defeating the 
enemy. The improved logistical situation, which occurred at approximately the 
same time as the reorganization, proved an equal factor in advancing Allied air 
fortunes. The end of the rainy season in mid- April allowed the Allies to greatly 
accelerate operations from their forward fields. At the same time, increasingly 
effective Allied interdiction of Axis supplies forced the Luftwaffe in North 
Africa to cut back its operations. All of the factors that had previously favored 
the Axis air effort no longer weighed heavily in the scales, while Allied air 
power had overcome the obstacles in its path. 

Spaatz spent his energies late in the winter and spring of 1943 reinforcing 
and employing the new strength derived from the final restructuring, the 
exploitation of fresh doctrine, and the improvement of overall logistics. He nur- 
tured the new organizational arrangements; won over recalcitrant air and ground 
commanders to the new theories; and attempted to perfect the procurement, 
maintenance, and transportation of his men, materiel, and facilities. 

In the aftermath of Kasserine, the Allies refitted and prepared for the offen- 
sive that would drive the Axis into the sea. On March 1, in addition to his post 
as Commander, NAAF, Spaatz became Commanding General of the Twelfth Air 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Force. This new title did not add to his duties, because the Twelfth had virtually 
ceased to exist except on paper, but it did regularize his position in the formal 
War Department hierarchy. Spaatz also worked to increase the proficiency of the 

Signal intelligence revealed that more than 80 percent of the Axis supplies 
(49,600 tons) dispatched to North Africa in February had arrived safely .2 The 
NAAF was thus compelled to improve its antishipping effort, which depended 
on the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF). On March 1, Spaatz, 
Tedder, and Doolittle inspected the Telergma area airfields assigned to the 
NASAF. Spaatz wanted the flow of "all intelligence data" and results of all 
photo reconnaissance, including Malta flights, promptly sent to Doolittle's com- 
mand. Evidently, he wanted to ensure that Doolittle received a full and timely 
share of Ultra intercepts, some of which revealed the movement of Axis ship- 
ping between Italy and North Africa. To track this movement, the Allies rou- 
tinely used aerial reconnaissance. Aerial reconnaissance was the perfect cover. It 
verified the intercepts and kept their source a secret. Spaatz also wanted the lateral 
communication links with the Northwest Afiican Tactical Air Force (NATAF) 
and the Northwest African Coastal Air Force (NACAF) strengthened, as well as 
a radio intercept station at NASAF HQ to intercept spotting reports from Malta 
and Coastal Air Force recoimaissance aircraft.3 

From the NASAF fields around Telergma, Spaatz moved forward to the 
NATAF airfields around Bone in the north and Youks-les-Bains in the south. 
These visits played up the importance of one of the technological components of 
the new air-support doctrine — the need for radar coverage of the battlefield and 
beyond. Radar coverage allowed the air-support commander to form a quick and 
accurate picture of the position of his own and of the enemy's frontal aviation. 
Complete coverage enabled the air commander to divert or abort tactical bomber 
and reconnaissance flights from enemy fighters and, at the same time, made it 
possible for him to use fiiendly fighters either defensively to break up incoming 
enemy air attacks or offensively to strike enemy aircraft on or over their air- 
fields. This made the centralization of control of air-support forces not only nec- 
essary but easier and more effective. 

During the initial rush from Algiers to Tunisia, the Allies sent forward as 
many aircraft as they could. They neglected, however, to send forward their 
ground-based early warning radar. Spaatz, who had seen its effectiveness in the 
Battle of Britain, moved at once to get ground control intercept (GCI) and early 
warning radar sets deployed as rapidly and as far forward as possible. In his 
diary he emphasized the importance and urgency of radar coverage at the front 
in obtaining effective use of fighters on both the defensive and the offensive: 

The nearer the RDF [radio direction finding or radar] coverage can read tfre 
enemy airdrome areas and check them up on take off, the more effective our 
operations will be. This makes the location of sites for RDF stadons of almost 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

as great importance as the terrain for airdromes as an objective for the ground 
forces. This necessity has been lost on our buildup of units, and must be 
emphasized in order that our Air Forces can be properly balanced."* 

Spaatz reiterated the point in a letter to Arnold, dated March 7: 

The ability of the enemy to attack our troops with dive bombers indicates that 
the enemy has control of the air or our forces are improperly controlled or that 
essential equipment is lacking. The solution lies in an acceptance of the princi- 
ple that the first prerequisite to the support of the ground army or armies is the 
estabUshment of a fighter defense and offense, including RDF, GCI and other 
types of Radar equipment essential for the detection of enemy aircraft.' 

The arrival of the radar-equipped U.S. 3d Air Defense Wing and additional 
British radar for XII ASC and No. 242 Group allowed the NAAF to establish a 
radar net covering the front by April.^ 

Continuing his inspection of tactical fields, Spaatz lunched with Colonel 
Williams and General Fredendall at Le Kouif, a field northeast of Youks-les- 
Bains, on March 3. He found the attitude of the soon-to-be-relieved Fredendall 
concerning air altered: "General Fredendall, in contradiction to the last visit . . . 
has considerably broadened in his viewpoint of air importance. He realizes the 
necessity of seizing and holding airdrome areas and high or dominating ground 
necessary for proper RDF coverage. "7 Fredendall had learned, too late, the role 
of tactical air. In his after-action report he wrote: 

Ground forces should have it explained to them that it is not necessarily true that 
the air should furnish them with a visible "umbrella," but that air is being fur- 
nished in the average operation even when our planes are not visible from the 
ground. Also that this air support includes not only cover and reconnaissance over 
them, but also bombardment of enemy troops and airdromes.* 

From Williams, Spaatz received a testimonial on the efficacy of air support 
parties — ^AAF liaison teams with the forward elements of the ground troops, 
each equipped with a VHF radio mounted on a I'/z-ton truck. These units had 
supplied the higher commanders some of the quickest and most accurate infor- 
mation on combat situations. AAF formations had made it a habit to pass within 
range (fifteen miles) of the air support parties in order to get exact information 
on conditions in the target areas. At least once, an air support party (ASP) called 
down a strike on enemy forces in close contact with its own forces.9 

Spaatz's front-line inspections revealed a morale problem in NASAF as 
compared to NATAF. Acute shortages of replacement planes and crews 
accounted for much of the problem in NASAF's medium-bomber and fighter 
groups. 10 This issue had become particularly severe in February, but thanks to 
increased ferrying of new aircraft from the United States and the unsnarling of 
the replacement pipeline through France's African possessions, the AAF cor- 
rected half of the problem by the end of March, when Spaatz could report to 


Spaatz and the Air War m Eukope 

Maj. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, Marshal of the RAF Hugh M. Trenchard, Brig. Gen. 
James H. Doolittle, and actress Vivien Leigh (far right) enjoying a light moment in 
North Africa. Brig. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg is seated directly behind Spaatz. 

Stratemeyer, "Tell the Boss that there is a very, very noticeable improvement in 
the airplane situation."! l The lack of replacement crews, unlike the airplane 
shortage, did not lend itself quite so readily to a production-line solution. In fact, 
the problems of war-weariness and the rotation of experienced crews continued 
to haunt Spaatz and the AAF's other numbered air force commanders until the 
war's end. Initial rotation policies seemed to imply that crews could go home 
after fulfilling a minimum of 30 combat missions or 200 hours of combat flying. 
Many crews who felt they had fulfilled their duty were dismayed when circum- 
stances required additional missions. Their morale plummeted. ^2 

Spaatz did what he could to improve their spirits. On several occasions he 
ordered "more attention to awards and decorations." He attempted to ensure that 
daily AFHQ press communiques gave the NAAF its full share of credit and did 
not subordinate its activities to ongoing naval and ground actions. Spaatz even 
ordered the photos of bombing results released to the crews. 13 This action 
relieved the fear "that the missions were a waste of time, material, and life"l4 
common among men who flew over the same target mission after mission, yet 
never saw the damage they did because of the smoke of their own bombs or 
because of their own evasive action to avoid enemy antiaircraft fire. 

Like Union General Joseph "Fightin' Joe" Hooker, who faced a similar 
morale problem in the Army of the Potomac after its defeat in the Battle of 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

Fredericksburg, Spaatz took simple, but apparently well-calculated, measures to 
improve the camp life of his soldiers and to supply them with the creature com- 
forts dear to American fighting men. He replaced unfamiliar and unpopular 
British tents and rations in the combat units with American versions. 15 He 
ensured that flying personnel had cots and he established messes and recreation 
rooms. He set up separate rest camps for officers and enlisted men, improved 
facilities in all camps, and requested greater Red Cross support. He also tried to 
place motion picture projectors in each station, 16 made sure each unit had reli- 
gious services available to it, and ordered his surgeon's section to survey the 
entire area for malaria. Morale, according to his staff, took a decided upturn. 17 

After completing his tour of the front, Spaatz inspected the rear echelons. He 
flew to Marrakech on March 6. There he decided to keep the airfield complex 
under the control of the NAAF rather than to transfer it to the Air Transport 
Service. Thus, control of the terminus of the transatlantic ferry route would stay 
in his hands. He also issued a standardized set of specifications for airfield con- 
struction. As a result of this action, plus aviation engineer reinforcements, the 
arrival of heavy construction equipment above the normal table of organization, 
and a decision to retain all aviation engineers under the control of the NAAF, 
the size and number of forward airfields greatly increasedis and multiphed the 
force available to Coningham and Spaatz. 

By March 12, Spaatz returned to Algiers, where he learned of his promotion 
to lieutenant general. He appreciated the honor and the increased status it gave 
him. Coningham, as an air marshal, had, until then, technically outranked him, 
but as Spaatz noted in a letter on the total AAF personnel situation in North 
Africa, "I have been much less concerned about promotion for myself than ade- 
quate promotion for a number of officers who are doing a General's job without 
the rank."l5 This remained a problem until June 1943, when Eisenhower, after 
repeated requests from Spaatz, promoted foixr AAF officers.20 

The Air War Against Axis Supply Lines 

In the middle of March 1943, NAAF Headquarters moved from Algiers to 
Constantine. The move placed it closer to the front and enabled it, in Spaatz 's 
words, "to control the Strategic and Tactical Air Forces during the Tunisian 
Battle."2i In Constantine, on March 17, Spaatz, Doolittle, and Allied air officers 
of the Coastal Air Force met to analyze the effectiveness of the antishipping 
campaign. From Ultra sources they knew the daily unloading returns from 
Tunis and Bizerte.22 These confirmed that "the shipping strikes have not been 
sufficient to bring down the amount of supplies into Tunisia below the danger 
point to the Germans."23 Spaatz recommended singling out tanker shipping and 
concentrating all forces on it. Photo reconnaissance and "other intelligence" 
would show the tankers' locations. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

By January, Ultra could already determine the full details of 60 percent of all 
cargoes .24 Of course, it could not supply the Allies every detail necessary to their- 
plans of attack. The conference hammered out responsibilities for photo reconnais- 
sance (NACAF), minimum forces exclusively devoted to antishipping (two 
squadrons of the NASAF), and chain of command (the NACAF would notify 
NASAF Headquarters of targets and the NASAF would decide composition of 
the force). The conferees also agreed to strengthen communication links 
between the two air forces. 

The settling of jurisdictions, better flying weather in March and April, and 
the end of the crisis on the ground which had diverted the NASAF's strength to 
ground-support strikes, combined to greatly increase the ship-killing opportuni- 
ties for Doolittle's command. Adding to the strength and effectiveness of 
Doolittle's antishipping blows were improvement in aircraft replacement rates; 
reinforcement by one medium-bomber group and two heavy-bomber groups; 
and the transfer, in March, from Cairo to Algiers, of an intelligence group that 
specialized in the study of the enemy supply situation and the selection of ship- 
ping targets.25 

British aircraft flying out of Malta and night patrols by Royal Navy ships 
and submarines put further pressure on the Axis which, in March, unloaded 
43,125 tons of supplies, as compared with 49,600 tons in February. In the fol- 
lowing month unloadings plunged to 29,233 tons.26 Postwar figures show that 
in March and April, 41.5 percent of seaborne cargoes dispatched to Tunisia 
failed to reach North Africa; loss of Axis shipping in March, not made good in 
April, accounted for that month's lower tonnage. Only four ships exceeding 
3,000-tons dead weight reached Africa in April. Furthermore, daily unloadings 
steadily declined throughout the period from 1,300 to 700 tons.2'? By the end of 
April, the Allied tactical air forces had joined the fray and they, too, began to 
fly antishipping strikes. 

Naturally, the Axis increased their resupply effort in the face of the Allies' 
onslaught. They diverted as much high-priority seaborne supply as possible to 
small ferries, landing craft, and naval vessels. The Axis also turned to air trans- 
port. As a British official history states, "Enigma [Ultra] made it plain that his 
higher rate of fuel consumption [the principal air transport cargo] and the 
increasing destruction of his shipping had made the enemy critically dependent 
on air supply."28 

Throughout the Tunisian campaign, German air transport ferried large 
numbers of personnel and amounts of supply to the Axis bridgehead in North 
Africa. This transport proved an invaluable aid in November and December 
1942, when the surprise Allied landings called for a rapid response. In those two 
months the Luftwaffe brought in 37,000 men and 9,000 tons of materiel. After 
the initial surge, traffic declined to between 50 and 20 landings a day at the end 
of the year. German transport landings then began to climb until they reached 
150 a day by late March 1943. In February 1943, air transport brought in 11,000 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

personnel and 4,000 tons of supplies. In all, excluding March, this airlift con- 
veyed 71,000 troops and 23,000 tons of supplies to North Africa 29 

No one appreciated this herculean effort of the Luftwaffe more than Spaatz. 
On January 16, he instructed his staff to draw up plans "to get after" the daily 
parade of Junkers Model 52 (Ju 52) traffic across the straits.* Two days later, 
January 18, he "told Cannon to send out a strong fighter force occasionally to 
swat the Ju 52 daily procession coming across the Straits."30 

The British, too, developed plans to disrupt Axis air transport. Eastern Air 
Command drew up plans for such an operation on February 5 and expanded the 
plans to include the XII Bomber Command. This operation, code-named Flax, 
ran afoul of the exigencies of the Kasserine crisis, which siphoned off all avail- 
able air, causing the cancellation of the strike.3l In March, Spaatz returned to the 
scent. At an NAAF staff meeting on March 4, he directed the NASAF to include 
in its priorities attacks against Axis air transportation.32 When the NAAF drafted 
a plan to ruin any attempted Axis evacuation from Tunisia, the destruction of 
German air transport received first priority.33 

At the beginning of April, Tedder, Spaatz, Doolittle, and Coningham met for 
a "Dunkirk" conference to complete plans for action against the expected 
attempt by the Axis to withdraw completely from Tunisia. Spaatz, supported by 
Coningham, disagreed with Tedder about whether the chief target priority 
should be air or sea transport. Spaatz said, "At the present time we are in doubt 
as to whether we are justified in getting away from sea transport and hitting air 
transport; but on the evacuation, unless we can believe air is the most important, 
we will be continuously in doubt as to what to do. "34 As the discussion contin- 
ued, it turned to implementing Flax. Tedder agreed "emphatically" with Flax 
as a separate operation, but not as a general or continuing plan. He remarked that 
Eisenhower would probably agree to Flax as a specific operation to take priori 
ity over everything. 

Tedder objected to waging an air campaign exclusively against air transport 
and rejected Spaatz's suggestion that air transport be assigned first priority; 
instead. Tedder "insisted" that shipping remain the prime target. Ultra intercepts 
tended to confirm Tedder's judgment. They showed that shipping carried eight 
to ten times more tonnage than aircraft to the bridgehead in February and 
March.35 Once Tedder had driven that point home, he gave his subordinate 
authority to attack "air transport when specific targets arise." That satisfied 
Spaatz, who observed that in any case of sea versus air transport, the value of 
the individual target would always determine its selection.36 

Eisenhower apparently accepted the plan. On April 5, the NASAF conducted 
the first Flax strike. A morning fighter sweep splashed eleven Ju 52s and five 
escorts into the sea. Next, B-17s struck Tunisian landing fields, where the trans- 
port shuttle terminated, with fragmentation bombs. Around noon more B-17s and 

* The Germans used the trimotor Ju 52 as their chief transport aircraft. 


A six-engine Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant transport (above) and low-flying Junkers 
(Ju 52) tri-motor transport (below). The ubiquitous "Tante Ju" was tlie workhorse 
of Luftwaffe airlift. 

Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

B-25s finished off the affair by dropping fragmentation bombs on the Sicilian 
airfields at Boccadifalco, Trapani, and Borizzo, where the second daily flight for 
Tunisia usually formed up. These actions totally disrupted service, because an 
afternoon P-38 sweep found the straits empty. The bomber raids caught Axis 
aircraft bunched together on their fields and inflicted heavy damage. The 
Luftwaffe acknowledged losses of 14 Ju 52s shot down, 11 transports destroyed 
on the ground, and 67 transports damaged. The AAF claimed 201 enemy aircraft 
destroyed, and admitted its loss of 3 aircraft with 6 unaccounted for. Additional 
attacks on April 10 and 11 resulted in claims of 67 transports and 13 escorts 

Spaatz wrote to Eaker in England describing the carefully set trap. Before 

executing Flax, the Allies had observed enemy air transport activity via photo 
reconnaissance and radar coverage, but had not interfered with daily flights. As 
a result, the methodical Germans were lulled into establishing a regular schedule 
and became more vulnerable to the initial Allied attacks. 38 Because of extremely 
sensitive Ultra information, Spaatz avoided mentioning its contribution to the 
success of the operation. The breaking of the code used by the Luftwaffe's 
Enigma cipher machine gave details of cargoes, variation of convoy routes, 
flight cancellations, and German defensive measures. RAF "Y," the RAF's tacti- 
cal intercept service added more information with its readings of local Luftwaffe 
and Italian Air Force (lAF) air transport radio traffic. "From the study of this 
traffic the intelligence staffs derived their familiarity with points of arrival and 
departure, the time taken to unload and turn around, the normal routes, and the 
strength of the escorts."39 The signal security of the German air force was noto- 
riously poor. 

After April 17, the Western Desert Air Force (WDAF) took over the execu- 
tion of Flax from the NASAF. The following day, the WDAF, operating from 
newly captured airfields around Sousse, a coastal city on the Gulf of Hammamet 
only 90 miles from Cape Bon (one-third of the distance from NASAF fields), 
staged the "Palm Sunday Massacre." WDAF P-40s and Spitfires attacked a 
homeward-bound air convoy and sent between 50 and 70 of the 100 transports 
and 16 escorts spinning into the Mediterranean. The next day they added 12 out 
of 20. The Axis, in desperate condition on land and sea, persevered in the face of 
this pounding. They brought in air transport reinforcements and kept flying. 
Even instructor crews participated in the one-sided fight.40 On April 22, the 
Germans lost an entire flight of 21 Messerschmitt Model 323s (Me 323s). These 
six-engine converted gliders had four times the cargo capacity of Ju 52s but little 
maneuverability; they generated barely enough speed to keep themselves air- 
borne, lacked armor and self-sealing gas tanks, and had no chance against the 
Allied fighters which pounced on them. Three days later. Ultra revealed the 
order of the Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe, Reich Marshal Hermann 
Goering, to switch all transport flights to night. This step greatiy reduced air 
resupply into Tunisia and ended Flax.^i 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Throughout the Flax operation the NASAF had continued its raids on Axis 
staging airfields. These raids completed the destruction of the German air trans- 
port fleet and resulted in the loss of numerous Axis escort and antishipping air- 
craft as well. Of the 263 German transports available at the beginning of April, 
the Luftwaffe had lost 157 by April 27,42 not including Italian transports and 
Axis bomber aircraft pressed into transport service. One estimate placed total 
losses at 432 aircraft. These losses, combined with casualties suffered by the 
German Air Transport Service in its attempts to supply the German Sixth Army 
in the Stalingrad pocket of southern Russia, crippled German air transport for 
the remainder of the war.43 

Operation Flax and the equally successful strangulation of seaborne traffic 
doomed the Axis land forces in Africa. Only forty tons of diesel and motor fuel 
remained in the bridgehead at the time of their surrender.44 Allied intelligence 
had selected its shipping targets so carefully that the only surplus remaining was 
food, which the Allies had purposely not sunk in anticipation of feeding Axis 
prisoners of war.45 

The interdiction campaign, like the adoption of British air-support tech- 
niques, provided an example of the victory of wartime improvisation over pre- 
war doctrine. Neither subject had captured the imagination of the interwar Army 
Air Corps theorists, yet both these aspects of the Tunisian campaign have served 
as models for future AAF and USAF doctrine. Never again has U.S. air power 
participated in such an effective supply interdiction effort or had so many advan- 
tages over the enemy. The Allies broke aknost every major cipher used by the 
enemy; they had overwhelming air and naval superiority, which they could 
freely apply to the restricted area of the Cape Bon-Sicily narrows; and they 
fought an overextended and, to some extent, disheartened enemy. 

Spaatz contributed to the success of the operation in two ways. He insisted 
that airborne as well as water transport be interdicted, thereby closing a vital 
supply line that specialized in the delivery of petroleum products — a necessity 
for the Axis forces in the bridgehead. Second, like other senior air officers, he 
seized the opportunity to demonstrate air power's effectiveness against the Axis 
forces' vulnerability to an aggressive air interdiction campaign. 

Heavy-Bombardment Aviation in T\inisia 

The pride of the AAF, heavy-bombardment aviation, performed well and 
sometimes spectacularly well during the Tunisian campaign. From November 
1942 through May 1943, the B-24s of the Ninth Air Force and the B-17s of the 
Twelfth Air Force flew 7,041 combat sorties, only 900 fewer than the medium 
and light bombers of the two air forces,46 and lost only 81 aircraft (1.1 percent) 
to combat or accident.47 The B-17s suffered only 24 combat casualties; enemy 
fighters accounted for 8 of them, flak and other causes taking the other 16.^8 In a 
letter summarizing the campaign, Spaatz wrote to Arnold, "The impact of the 


After an air raid on Castelvetrona, Sicily, April 1943. Direct hits on forty-two air- 
craft, including twenty transports, were observed. 

A German Siebel ferry, typical of the watercraft used to supply the Axis bridgehead, 
spring 1943. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

well flown B-17 formation into the European air picture has been tremendous 
and, in my opinion, will be the decisive factor, unless the Germans find some 
means of opposing it better than they have now."49 

After a slow start, the heavy bombers made their first raid beyond North 
Africa on February 7, 1943, when they hit a major airfield in Elmas, Sardinia. 
This raid, according to its planners, damaged a large percentage of the Axis anti- 
shipping capability stationed at Elmas, thereby enabling an Allied convoy to 
escape further losses.50 Two more raids in February struck port facilities in 
Cagliari, Sardinia, and Palermo, Sicily. These missions established the pattern 
for subsequent months; NASAF medium bombers (B-25s and B-26s) concen- 
trated on shipping, while heavy bombers (B-17s and B-24s) attacked the loading 
and unloading facilities at both ends of the Axis supply lines. Occasionally, the 
B-17s went after convoys or ships in harbor. 

Two raids produced dramatic results that helped enhance the AAF's faith in 
the destructiveness of its preferred weapon system. On April 10, B-17s sank the 
Italian heavy cruiser Trieste with 1,000-pound bombs dropped from 19,000 feet. 
The same raid damaged the Goriza, one of Italy's two remaining heavy cruisers. 
Dramatic before and after pictures received full circulation during the war, and 
even the postwar U.S. Army and Air Force official histories selected them for 
publication.51 Four days earlier, B-17s had blown up an ammunition ship in 
convoy to Tunisia; that pyrotechnic display also eamed wide coverage. 

As usual, Arnold pressed Spaatz and his other combat commanders to pro- 
vide the public and the President with evidence of destruction by bombing. 
Spaatz's and Doolittle's unprecedented permission given to the glamorous Life 
magazine photojoumalist Margaret Bourke- White to fly a B-17 combat mission 
over Tunisia and the resultant story failed to assuage Amold,52 nor did Time 
magazine's cover story of March 22 on Spaatz.53 The AAF commander was 
concerned that an unsophisticated public would not understand why "our early 
units were not as well trained as units committed to combat should be," why 
"we did not suddenly have a great striking force prepared to operate against 
Germany," and why the AAF required "a necessary 'feeling out' period."54 
Arnold needed proof of accurate and devastating bombing. On April 10, he cau- 
tioned Spaatz that "many people in high places" were asking hard questions 
about the exact details of damage inflicted by Spaatz's forces. "It will help us a 
great deal in defending your operations," noted Arnold, "and in building up a 
correct picture of the results being accomplished if you will make a special 
effort to have a summary on the subject gotten back here about every two 

Eleven days later, in response to an earlier request by Arnold for information 
on Kasserine Pass and antishipping operations, Spaatz wrote that he hoped 
Arnold had received his daily operations reports, the weekly intelligence sum- 
maries, and "the special folders of significant heavy bomber operations. "56 
Spaatz cited four special folders already sent: (1) the March 22 Palermo raid. 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

which Spaatz earlier called one of the most destructive of the war;^^ (2) the 
April 6 ammunition ship strike; (3) the sinking of the Trieste; and (4) an April 

13 mission against the Castelvetrano airfield in Sicily. These four special folders 
should have helped Arnold greatly in his defense of precision bombing. 

Spaatz did not mention a devastating raid by the 97th Bombardment Group 
on airfields in the Souk el Arba area on February 22, the high point of the 
German Kasserine attack. In an interview more than thirty years later. General 
Kuter still remembered the incident well — the B-17s used "anti-personnel 
bombs, hundreds of them all over, and killed a lot of people."58 Unfortunately, 
the base belonged to the RAF; the bombers had missed their intended target by a 
hundred miles. Prompt apologies and a thorough investigation by the NASAF 
mollified the British, who chalked up the incident to the fortunes of war.59 it 
was no wonder Spaatz did not send a special folder on this mission. 

Appropriately, when Spaatz quietly chose to join a limited number of com- 
bat missions, he flew on the heavies — on at least three occasions that can be ver- 
ified in his diary and probably two or three more times. On March 31, he rode in 
the nose of one of the 97th Bombardment Group's B-17s on a mission over 
Decimonannu airfield in Sardinia. Next, he flew with the 301st Bombard-ment 
Group on the April 13 Castelvetrano airfield raid. Two weeks later, on April 27, 
he observed the bombing of Villacidro airfield fi-om one of the 97th Bombard- 
ment Group's fortresses.60 The Castelvetrano raid lost one airplane to antiaircraft 
fire. According to Eisenhower's personal naval aide, Capl. Harry Butcher, who 
knew Spaatz well and often participated in his late-night poker games, Spaatz 
told him, but not Eisenhower, that he had flown on a raid over Palermo on April 

14 in which three planes were lost, two to fighters and one to flak. That trip 
"wasn't the first by any means."6i Given the information in Spaatz 's papers and 
Butcher's diary, Spaatz apparently flew no fewer than four or five missions. It 
appears reasonable to conclude that he flew a strike with each of the heavy-bom- 
bardment groups in his command: the 2d, 97th, 99th, and 301st. 

Spaatz 's flights demonstrated bravery, but did they demonstrate another 
quality essential to command — ^wisdom? If the casualty figures can be accepted, 
he personally witnessed one-sixth of all B-17 combat losses for the campaign. 
He did not choose milk runs. In fact, he appears to have exposed himself to great 
danger and to have run real risks. If his plane had gone down and he had been 
captured, the enemy might have forced the Ultra secret from him, to the signif- 
icant detriment of the Allied effort. His loss in battle might also have damaged 
AAF prestige and shaken faith in the possibility of daylight bombing. 

But Spaatz's flights do demonstrate a cardinal principle of good conmiand — 
leadership. He had a morale problem in the NASAF. What better way to help 
ease it than to let his men know "the old man" shared their risks? How better 
could he understand the physical, mental, and organizational problems of flying 
a wartime raid? Military history abounds with examples of leaders who failed 
because of plans based on absolute physical impossibilities. One need only 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

remember the apocryphal tale of the World War I British staff officer who burst 
into tears on his first visit to the front when he realized the hopelessness of the 
attacks he had helped to plan. 

Nor did Spaatz, in this instance, take absurd chances. B-17 strikes had far 
lower loss rates than antishipping or ground-support attacks. He apparently par- 
ticipated as an observer only and did not interrupt normal crew procedure or put 
himself in the cockpit. By confining himself to raids on coastal targets he less- 
ened the danger of capture should he and his crew be forced to abandon their 
plane. They could parachute from it or ease it into the water with the hope of 
encountering Allied rescue parties. Moreover, recent evidence shows that the 
Ultra secret had become known at levels far lower than his. Because he was 
usually not the only one who knew about it on the missions that he flew,62 he 
probably did not jeopardize it unduly. On balance, Spaatz's combat missions 
seem to have been justified. He achieved a positive effect on his own and his 
men's morale and gained invaluable insight into the day-to-day workings of his 
command. As a commander he had a duty to lead by example in combat. He ful- 
filled that duty without indulging in it to the extent that he compromised his 
capacity to carry out higher responsibilities. Of course, if he actually had been 
lost, his flights could be condemned as ill-considered and foohsh — such is fate. 
Spaatz, in this instance, had at least stacked the deck in his favor. 

Such experiences did not dampen his belief in precision bombing. In late 
May he summed up the performance of the heavy bombers this way: "In our day 
to day operations at the present time, we feel any area can be completely neu- 
tralized, even blown into oblivion, by high altitude attacks, without incurring 
any serious losses on our part." He went on to bemoan the loss of a year in 
mounting a massive strategic campaign against Germany — an attack that would 
have been decisive, in his view, had it been properly followed up.63 

Ground Operations and Air Support 

As the NASAF tightened its grip on Axis supply lines, Allied ground forces, 
assisted by the newly formed NATAF, shattered enemy land forces in a nine- 
week-long assault on the Italian-German bridgehead. Under the able leadership 
of Coningham, the U.S. XII Air Support Command, the Western Desert Air 
Force, and No. 242 Group soon gained air superiority. Fighter-bombers and light 
bombers of the NATAF roamed the battlefield unhampered by the Luftwaffe. 

Coningham's appointment to head the NATAF improved the performance of 
the tactical forces but did not provide a universal nostrum to the ills of air- 
ground cooperation in North Africa. Not all ground or air commanders suc- 
cumbed to the New Zealander's messianic expressions of the new support 
arrangements. Nor did "Mary's" combative temperament ease his path. In his 
view, the Americans, with less than six months' wartime experience, had noth- 
ing to teach him. In the subsequent campaign in Sicily, he made his view abun- 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

dantly clear to Spaatz in a scene that one observer described as "the first time I 
saw personal Anglo-American relations go wrong at that level."64 

Coningham had begun to develop an obsessive and splenetic hatred of 
Montgomery, believing that he had filched from him and the air arm the lau- 
rels of victory at El Alamein.65 As a result, Montgomery began to place 
increasing reliance in the abilities of Air Vice-Marshal Harry Broadhurst, 
Coningham 's replacement in command of the WDAF. The Montgomery- 
Broadhurst collaboration proved extremely effective in supplying tactical air 
support to the ground troops under Montgomery's command through North 
Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy — and served as proof of the importance of 
personal compatibility in the air-ground equation. 66 Spaatz, while scrupu- 
lously declining to interfere with Coningham's overall direction of the tactical 
battle, spent a great deal of time calming the waters in Coningham's wake and 
convincing American officers of the value of the new doctrine, if not of the 
value of its bearer.* 

Although Coningham's appointment to head the NATAF improved the per- 
formance of the tactical forces, neither Spaatz nor the AAF in North Africa 
accepted his system in toto. The Americans disagreed with his orders of March 
17, which forbade NATAF planes from communicating with air-support parties 
(as mentioned, AAF-manned liaison teams equipped with a VHF radio on a V/i- 
ton truck that traveled with the forward ground elements and provided immedi- 
ate contact with planes overhead). To Coningham, the practice by which U.S. 
aircraft checked in with the air-support parties smacked of excessive control of 
air by the ground commander and thus violated the principle of unity of air com- 
mand. It also threatened to short-circuit the whole British system by providing a 
direct link between pilots and individual ground units. Such a link abbreviated 
the functions of the Fighter Wing Control Room, reducing control by the overall 
air commander. 67 

Colonel Williams, the commanding officer of the XII ASC, after discussion 
with his group leaders and pilots, advised his superior that the air-support parties 
did not command or control his planes, but merely provided a quick and valu- 
able communications link with the ground forces at the point of combat.68 
Spaatz intervened in support of Williams's position, and the air-support parties 
continued to provide their useful services. 69 

American use of air-support parties illustrated certain differences in Allied 
air coordination practices. Although the Americans absorbed many lessons from 
the British, the two organizations did not form mirror images. The Americans 
regarded the air-support parties as the equivalent of British "tentacles," but they 
did not follow the example of assigning an air liaison officer at each forward air- 
field. Instead, the ground unit receiving support sent one of its own officers to 
the airfield to brief the air commander. In the WDAF/8th Army scheme, the 8th 

* See discussion of the RAF's and Coningham's air support doctrine in Chapter 4. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Army processed air requests from subordinate units, decided on priorities, and at 
that point presented requirements to the WDAF, which had control over all 
operational aspects of the mission. 

The Americans also used different communication channels. Instead of II 
Corps Headquarters developing air requests from its subordinate units, XU ASC 
Headquarters developed requests received directly from the air-support parties. 
The air-support party's commander not only served as air-ground liaison but 
doubled as a member of the ground unit's staff. After allocating its aircraft to 
specific strikes, XII ASC then confirmed its decisions with II Corps G-3 
(Operations). If G-3 approved, XII ASC carried out the missions according to its 
own plans and force available. The Americans believed in the superiority of 
their procedure since it introduced qualified air opinion at the beginning of a 
request process, thereby preventing air commitment to unsuitable or impossible 
tasks. Coningham had learned from the Americans through Williams that air- 
craft command and control was technically reserved to XII ASC Headquarters 
and not to the air-support parties, but he was, apparently, either uninformed or 
uncomprehending of the essential role played by those parties in the American 
scheme of ground support.^0 

Coningham's original order, had it remained in effect, would have totally 
disrupted American air-ground cooperation. The Americans resisted this attempt 
to impose British methods from the top. In practice, however, both the British 
and the American schemes worked equally well. In 1944 Spaatz took the 
American procedures with him to Britain where they were applied by the U.S. 
Ninth Air Force. With Spaatz's departure in 1944, the Mediterranean Theater 
adopted British procedures. 

Even before Coningham's arrival to command the NATAF, Spaatz had 
observed to Stratemeyer that with Coningham "at the head of our Air Support 
Command, it can readily be seen that something is bound to break out in a very 
short time."7i Air-ground relations remained tranquil until April 1. After the 
Kasserine crisis. Allied ground and air units prepared to renew attacks on the 
Axis. The logistical situation improved dramatically after early December and 
January. Spaatz could report that the forward fields had sufficient bombs and 
gasoline for operations.72 The NAAF needed only one item to remove the prin- 
cipal bottleneck remaining in its logistics — motor transport. On March 30, 
Spaatz complained that II Corps still had 450 AAF trucks. Seven days later, he 
asked Eisenhower for more transport to move the air force forward, even if it 
had to come from II Corps.'^ 

After a pause to reorganize following the defeats of mid-February, II Corps 
resumed the offensive. Although Coningham now held operational control of 
XII ASC, he followed the earlier and logical practice of ordering each of his air 
contingents to support its own land forces. In keeping with his ideas, however, 
XII ASC gave first priority to counterair operations rather than to ground sup- 
port for II Corps. 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

On March 17, following intensive artillery and air preparation, Patton's II 
Corps took Gafsa and began to attack toward the sea coast, seventy-five miles 
away. By then, XII ASC's operational strength had risen to 1 16 Spitfires, 49 P- 
39s, and 4 photographic reconnaissance planesJ^ The Support Command's 
medium bombers had transferred to the Tactical Bomber Force, a centralized 
tactical bomber command directly under Coningham's control. Spitfires had 
short endurance and could not drop bombs. The P-39s served only as fast 
ground-attack planes because of their inability to compete in dogfights with 
superior Axis fighters in the theater. The XII ASC had two responsibilities for 
this phase of the battle: (1) to protect the forward move of II Corps and (2) to 
obtain and hold air superiority over opposing air forces to free the entire WDAF 
for the 8th Army attack on Rommel at the Mareth Line. The Tactical Bomber 
Force, composed of both British and American medium bombers, would supply 
striking power to XII ASC for hitting Axis airfields. Coningham also had the 
power to require Strategic Air Force missions on enemy fields during critical 
days of the offensive.'^^ 

Rain grounded portions of the NATAF and mired 11 Corps in mud, postpon- 
ing the offensive until March 29. For the next twelve days II Corps made little 
progress against heavy German resistance. A number of fruitless and costly 
attacks, which gained negligible results, made the period between March 28 and 
April 2 particularly frustrating for Patton. On the morning of April 1, a German 
air attack killed one of his personal aides, Capt. Richard N. Jenson, and landed a 
bomb within a few feet of Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, deputy corps comman- 
der.76 Jenson's death upset Patton greatly;^^ he manifested his grief, in part, 
against Allied air support, which he felt had abandoned him. 

This attitude represented a volte-face for Patton. Just before the attacks, 
Spaatz, on a trip to the front, had elicited from him on March 24 and from Maj. 
Gen. Terry Allen, Commander of the 1st Infantry Division (the "Big Red One") 
on March 25 expressions of approval concerning their air support;78 on March 
23 and 24, XII ASC had successfully bombed and strafed enemy tanks, motor 
transport, and troops in the El Guettar (1st Division) sector.?^ Neither general 
may have been fully aware that XII ASC's priority mission was conducting 
counterair operations, not ground support.^O 

By April 2, however, Patton, as on other occasions during the war, could no 
longer contain his anger. He proceeded to issue a situation report ("sitrep") highly 
critical of the air effort. "Forward troops," the sitrep stated, "have been continu- 
ously bombed all morning. Total lack of air cover for our units has allowed 
German Air Force to operate almost at will."8i Patton gave the report wide circu- 
lation. Predictably, Coningham reacted by giving even wider circulation to a cho- 
leric message of his own. After first noting that XII ASC had provided 260 
sorties on the day in question and that, furthermore, enemy air action had resulted 
in only four killed and a small number wounded, he stated: "On receipt of sitrep 
it was first assumed to be seasonal first April joke." then he continued: 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

It is assumed that intention was not to stampede local American air command 
into purely defensive action. It is also assumed that there was no intention to 
adopt discredited practice of using air force as an ahbi for lack of success on 
the ground. ... It can only be assumed that Two Corps personnel concerned are 
not battleworthy in terms of present operation. . . . [Finally NATAF's comman- 
der requested] that such inaccurate and exaggerated reports should cease. XII 
ASC have been instructed to not allow their brilliant and conscientious support 
of Two Corps to be affected by this false cry of wolf.*^ 

Coningham angrily complained at Tedder's headquarters that Patton's provo- 
cations were "particularly intense," consisting of "a solid 48 hours of sitreps, 
signals and telephone calls, three of them being to General Alexander." In the 
meantime, "there were no communications to General Williams commanding 
American air, nor to my headquarters, but all the other addresses of my signal 
were included. They were all based on false information because General Patton 
is living 40 miles away from his airmen and does not know the air position."83 

Because the Patton-Coningham fracas was potentially damaging to both air- 
ground and inter-Allied relations, Spaatz, Tedder, and Eisenhower reacted 
sharply. Tedder, in his memoirs, claimed that he corrected the situation himself. 
After receiving a copy of Coningham' s message, Tedder phoned Eisenhower 
and explained that as Air Officer Commanding, Mediterranean Air Command, 
he had instructed Coningham to cancel his message and to accompany him to 
Gafsa to apologize to Patton in person. This meeting. Tedder claims, resolved 
the situation and converted Patton to a friend. Tedder added that his prompt han- 
dling of the problem prevented Eisenhower's resignation.84 

Spaatz 's command diary entries, recorded at the time of the event, contradict 
Tedder's account. Spaatz and, presumably. Tedder had received copies of 
Patton's original message as they were leaving a joint MAC-NAAF staff meet- 
ing that put the final touches on the "Dunkirk" plans. The "inaccuracy" and 
"unjustness" of the sitrep and its wide distribution had provoked "great con- 
cern. "85 The next morning Spaatz and Tedder, in the midst of preparing to fly to 
the front, received Coningham's intemperate reply. They flew to Thelepte, met 
Kuter and Williams, and investigated the lack of air support reported by Patton. 
The WDAF, they found, had scheduled 160 fighter sorties for April 1, but 
weather had interfered. The XII ASC had not attacked a tank concentration 
because the ground forces had canceled their planned attack when artillery 
moved into range of the tanks. Finally, they discovered a lack of radar coverage 
to the east of Gafsa, which prevented effective employment of the fighters sta- 
tioned there.86 

The four then motored from Thelepte to visit Patton at his headquarters in 
Gafsa. They must have been dumbfounded when he informed them of his satis- 
faction with current air support. Nonetheless, they expressed their misgivings 
over his having moved too far forward of Williams to communicate with him.87 
The separation of Patton and Williams violated the spirit of the new doctrine. 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, 
Lt. Gen. George S. 
Patton, and Spaatz's 
Chief of Intelligence, Col. 
George C. McDonald, 
Constantine, Algeria, 
March 1943. 

which required the co-location of air and ground headquarters for the proper 
supervision of forces. 

By a quirk of fate, two to four German aircraft suddenly interrupted conver- 
sation, strafing and bombing Patton 's headquarters area and prompting one of 
his guests to remark, "I always knew you were a good stage manager, but this 
takes the cake." Patton replied, "If I could find those sonsabitches who flew 
those planes I'd mail them each a medal. "88 In a far less celebrated incident, the 
airmen had a measure of revenge on the Luftwaffe the same day, when XII ASC 
fighters intercepted a Stuka (dive-bomber) formation and shot down thirteen of 
sixteen planes. 89 

That aftemoon Tedder and Spaatz flew on to visit the WDAF at Medinine, 
behind the 8th Army's front. Spaatz saw, firsthand, that the 8th Army had much 
more effective air support than the other Allied land forces in Tunisia. With 
Williams and Patton's chief of staff in tow, Spaatz provided some on-the-job 
training by inspecting joint WDAF/8th Army Headquarters. He noted that 
Montgomery, unlike Patton, left his main headquarters adjacent to air headquar- 
ters, even if he personally moved an advanced command post closer to the fight- 
ing.90 The German masters of the blitzkrieg. Generals Irwin Rommel and Heinz 
Guderian, employed similar methods in directing their own armored attacks. 

During their visit to the front, Spaatz and Tedder talked at great length about 
Coningham's reply to Patton. When they returned to Williams's headquarters on 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

April 4, Tedder wrote a reprimand to Coningham, which he sent to Spaatz, who 
forwarded it to NAAF Headquarters for transmission to its recipient. Tedder 
then called Eisenhower with an explanation and directed Coningham to f?ee 
Patton post haste.9i Coningham met Patton at noon the same day, and the two 
immediately engaged in a shouting match, both protesting their faith in their 
own men. Once it stopped, the atmosphere cleared and the two officers got down 
to business. Coningham, as ordered, apologized. Patton graciously accepted as if 
he himself had done no wrong, and they both agreed to cancel and withdraw their 
respective messages. Patton recorded in his diary, "We parted friends, and I 
think we will now get better an support than ever before." As Patton well knew, 
the squeaky wheel gets the grease.92 / 

In a contrite letter to Tedder's deputy, Air Vice-Marshal H.E.P. Wiggles- 
worth, Coningham said of Patton, "I like him very much, he is a gentleman and 
a gallant warrior. But on the slightest provocation he breathes fire and battle, 
and as I also like fighting I could not resist the challenge when he turned the bar- 
rage on to me."93 Coningham sent out a new message, in which he expressed 
regret that his original signal might have been interpreted as a slight to U.S. 
forces and laid the cause to an egregious error in transmission: "Two Corps" had 
been wrongly substituted for "Few corps." The new signal concluded with the 
withdrawal of his offending message and an indication that he considered the 
matter closed.94 

Eisenhower, however, had the last word. As Spaatz's chief of staff. Col. 
Edward (Ted) Curtis, recalled, the Coningham-Patton dispute angered Eisenhower 
considerably.95 His steam was still up on April 5 when he wrote Marshall, "The 
past week has been a very trying one and was notable for one incident that dis- 
turbed me very much. This involved a very unwise and unjust criticism of II 
Corps by a senior member of the British Air Force." Eisenhower concluded, 
"There was really no excuse for the thing happening. "^^ Later that morning, 
Spaatz and Eisenhower met in conference, where the incident became the chief 
topic of conversation. Spaatz defended Coningham, arguing that Patton had ini- 
tiated the affair with a sitrep so accusative that notice had to be taken of it; 
Patton should restrict his "grousing" t^ proper channels. Moreover, Patton's 
movement of his headquarters to a spot inaccessible to Williams's headquarters 
could only have decreased the possibility of effective support. Spaatz pointed 
out that, in any case, Patton had obtained 160 sorties from the WDAF. Eisen- 
hower responded by suggesting a large-scale air operation in support of II Corps, 
a suggestion Spaatz forwarded to Coningham.97 The squeaky wheel had gotten 
the grease. 

This meeting apparently changed Eisenhower's view of the affair. That 
aflemoon he wrote to Patton suggesting that the matter be dropped in the interest 
of "the great purpose of complete Allied teamwork" [emphasis in the original]. 
He chided Patton for demanding an additional "pound of flesh" and observed, 
"In connection with this matter I am since informed that there was a certain 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

amount of unwise distribution of your sitrep." He warned Patton that in future 
any criticism of another service or collaborating agency should be made by 
means of a "confidential" report through the proper chain of command or, better 
yet, with "a friendly and personal conference with the man responsible." He 

You and Spaatz, with your respective subordinates, are at the moment ceirrying 
the burden of battle command for the American side of the house. In both of 
you I have the most tremendous confidence and I therefore feel that you have 
every right to have my opinions on these matters as accurately as I am able to 
express them." 

Patton noted, "Ike told me later that he could not punish Coningham because he 
was a New Zealander and political reasons forbade."99 This ended the incident, 
but the problem of perfecting air-ground cooperation remained. 

On several occasions in April and May, Spaatz went to the front to try to 
correct close air support arrangements. He was incensed by what he found on his 
visit to the U.S. 34th Infantry Division on April 8. This untried division, recently 
detached from II Corps and assigned to the British 9 Corps, had failed to reach 
its objective, partly because of confusion over a planned air attack. The 9 Corps 
canceled the air attack around midnight April 7-8 and so notified 34th Division. 
At 8:00 A.M. Maj. Gen. Ryder, 34th Division Commander, realizing that his 
infantry had not advanced so far or so quickly as planned, tried to reinstate the 
air attack for 8:30 A.M., but no planes appeared and at 9:30 a.m. the division 
called off the air attack once more. 100 jn following up the lack of support for the 
34th, Spaatz discovered that air-ground communications had failed. The 34th 
had not realized that it could call for air support directly to XII ASC through its 
own air support party. The XII ASC, assigned to support II Corps, had just 
moved seventy-five miles to the northeast (from Thelepte to LeSers), too far 
from both American II and British 9 Corps Headquarters. Nor had XU ASC 
been aware of its continuing responsibility for the 34th Division. To make mat- 
ters worse for the pride of the 34th Division, the British assault went well and at 
its end the British 9 Corps commander recommended the withdrawal of the 34th 
from combat and the retraining of its jtmior officers at the rear under British 
guidance. 101 

Spaatz attributed the air-ground problem to the ground forces' own confu- 
sion about lines of authority: XII ASC could not effectively cooperate with two 
widely separated masters. Upon his retum to Constantine, Spaatz suggested the 
formation of a new army headquarters to supervise both corps. This headquar- 
ters, sited alongside Williams's headquarters, would allow XII ASC to do its job 
effectively. "Any organization which had air forces available but could not get 
their machinery in motion to apply them was faulty," Spaatz wrote in his diary. 
Williams had had the forces to aid the 34th, but because of poor control could 
not apply them.i02 Eisenhower rejected Spaatz's suggestion. Because a new 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

army headquarters would have had to be American, and he may not have felt 
that the time was right to discuss its formation. 

Meanwhile, Montgomery continued his pursuit of the retreating Italian- 
German army group. His march along the Mediterranean coast, from the Mareth 
Line to Enfidaville, moved the southern boundary of the bridgehead one hundred 
miles north. This left the U.S. II Corps with no front to occupy. Anticipating this 
"pinching out," Allied commanders had already ordered II Corps to prepare to 
transfer to the far northern edge of the bridgehead, where it could advance on 
Bizerte. This move, begun on April 12, placed II Corps under Anderson's 1st 
Army. The shrunken size of the Axis-occupied area left room for only two air 
control sectors, and because XII ASC supported II Corps, now under the opera- 
tional control of the 1st Army, XII ASC joined No. 242 Group, the 1st Army's air 

support formation, as a subordinate unit. WDAF had the other air control sec- 

As II Corps completed its move across the 1st Army's entire line of commu- 
nication and the 8th Army's drive stalled at Enfidaville, a lull in the fighting 
ensued. Spaatz, mindful of previous deficiencies in cooperation between II Corps 
and XII ASC, used this breather to try to strengthen the bond between the two 
organizations. He observed the air liaison officer at II Corps, foimd him unim- 
pressive, and replaced him. 104 

This personnel move did not halt the flow of complaints from General 
Bradley, who had replaced Patton as the Commander of II Corps, or from 
Anderson. The 1st Army initiated its new offensive on April 22, the same day the 
Luftwaffe began a general withdrawal from its African bases. From that point on, 
the Luftwaffe ceased to play a significant role in North Africa, and the Tactical 
Air Force discontinued airfield attacks as a matter of policy, turning instead to 
ground support. 105 Because this offensive was the major effort of the theater, 1st 
Army had a great say in the allocation of air on its front and had the responsibil- 
ity of joint planning with air for its attacks. Anderson proved he had learned noth- 
ing new about air operations. For the final breakthrough Coningham placed the 
entire NATAF and all the medium bombers the Strategic Air Force could spare 
under the operational control of No. 242 Group, the air headquarters co-located at 
1st Army headquarters.i06 

In preparing the final plan for the defeat of the Axis forces in Tunisia, the 1 st 
Army never consulted No. 242 Group — not even about zero hour. It chose dawn 
but Allied tactical aircraft could not take off from their primitive airfields before 
first light and, thus, could not bomb their first objective targets in time to assist 
the ground assault. The bombing of second and third objectives played a great 
part in the army's breakthrough. This, however, was a case of good fortune 
because the target, the Medjez Valley, normally had a seasonal morning mist 
from 9:00 to 10:00. For each of the four days before the attack the mist had 
come and had obscured the second and third objectives. 107 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

According to No. 242 Group, Allied air made every effort to satisfy the 
ground forces and even employed several nonstandard procedures. Provided the 
Army limited its requests to one or two attacks a day. No. 242 Group would 
attack any target, regardless of suitability. The group also placed at 1st Army's 
disposal a considerable force for its use as artillery, with little result; No. 242 
Group claimed that 1st Army dissipated the force made available in seventy dif- 
ferent attacks against forty-four separate targets.ios 

On April 29, Eisenhower visited Spaatz at his villa in Constantine to discuss 
Bradley's and Anderson's dissatisfaction with their air support. Spaatz con- 
cluded that the generals' complaints resulted from their inability to get exactly 
what they wanted when they wanted it. He told Eisenhower that he would go 
forward to straighten out the matter the next day, April 30.109 During his visits 
to both headquarters, Spaatz found the conditions he expected: lack of commu- 
nication, not aircraft, proved to be the problem. 

Anderson needed reassurance. The appearance of newly identified Gernian 
units on his front had convinced him that the air force had not done enough to 
stop enemy movement. He did not realize that these German groups were actu- 
ally remnants of units already broken by Montgomery in the south. Spaatz 
pointed out that the chief priority of the NASAF and, more recently, of the 
WDAF was the interruption of enemy reinforcements and supply. No doubt the 
latest Ultra intercepts, which reflected the steep decline in unloadings, 
strengthened Spaatz 's defense of the effectiveness of the air effort, 

At II Corps, the NAAF's commander found dissatisfaction with photo 
reconnaissance and the level of air support received. He traced both problems to 
1st Army Headquarters, rather than to a lack of desire by XII ASC to provide 
assistance to II Corps. Bradley's command did not get all the air missions it 
requested because 1st Army, which set air priorities for all the forces it con- 
trolled, did not approve all of II Corps requests. Spaatz had no authority to 
change that arrangement, although he did attach XII ASC's tactical recoimais- 
sance squadron directly to 11 Corps and tied II Corps G-2 (Intelligence Staff) 
into reconnaissance pilot briefings.m In attaching one of his air units directly to 
the ground unit it supported, Spaatz, of course, violated the doctrine of concen- 
tration of air assets. Once again, he demonstrated his refusal to allow doctrine to 
overcome common sense. He thought it better to bend a rule than to adhere to 
theory and leave the army blind. 

Spaatz could do nothing, however, about 1st Army's allocation of air mis- 
sions. The 1st Army denied II Corps' requests because all available air strength 
was being employed in front of the 1st Army's British troops to help them blast 
through stiff German opposition. A return visit by Spaatz on May 4 revealed 
improvements in the situation and greater satisfaction with air support. 112 Spaatz 
checked the time elapsed from a II Corps request for air and its clearance 
through army headquarters and discovered no great delay. He did find, however, 
that 1st Army Headquarters had refused requests when its judgment of particular 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

needs and conditions differed from tliat of 11 Corps. 1 13 

Later, Spaatz reminded Eisenhower of his previous warnings that the 
arrangements for the new battle would prove unsatisfactory. Because matters 
would not improve until his forces had their own independent army or corps 
conunanders with their staffs located alongside XII ASC's headquarters, he rec- 
ommended no change. Bradley's corps would have to continue under the current 
structure. Spaatz also informed Eisenhower that the heavy sortie rate of tactical 
aircraft demonstrated that 1st Army had used its available air resources to the 
maximum. 114 The collapse of the bridgehead and its final surrender on May 13, 
1943, ended the Tunisian campaign. This speedy finish obviated the need for 
further tinkering with the air-ground relationship. 

At the conclusion of the North African campaign, Tedder and Spaatz 
thought it necessary to formalize NAAF and MAC command arrangements. But 
the British and American staffs separately drew up complicated organizational 
charts, began bickering over respective rank and seniority, and insisted on insti- 
tuting procedures unique to their own service. Tedder's "back hairs began to 
bristle." At his morning meeting on May 12, disagreements came to a head. 
Spaatz complained that Mediterranean Air Command would usurp NAAF head- 
quarters' functions by going direct to NAAF's subordinate commands. This, 
Spaatz said, indicated improper organization. Tedder shot back, "If you want a 
divorce, you can have one here and now, repeat now!" Only a few moments 
later, reason returned, and the parties agreed to shelve their draft documents and 
to get on with fighting the war. 1 15 

This exchange undoubtedly influenced Spaatz's final judgment on headquar- 
ters' arrangements. On May 24, 1943, he wrote to Arnold that the organization 
had been made to work and had proved adequate for the job at hand, "but it is 
too dependent on personalities to be sound." Nonetheless, Spaatz believed that 
the Americans had leamed much from the British, particularly the handling of 
administration, operations, and^ 

Spaatz and Changes in AAF Air Support Doctrine 

The AAF emerged from the campaign in North Africa with a new and clearly 
defined doctrine of air support, much of which stemmed from RAF develop- 
ments. Spaatz absorbed this doctrine, expounded it to Arnold and the AAF hierar- 
chy, and oversaw its development in his command. In addition to the constant 
stream of information he sent back in his numerous letters and reports to Arnold, 
Spaatz found time, while on an mspection trip to Marrakech on March 7, to write 
a long and thoughtful letter in which he described the shortcomings of current 
official AAF doctrine on air support and suggested seminal changes: 

I cannot believe that the situation here is of such a special nature that it requires 
a peculiar form of organization, but rather that it approximates the conditions 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

under which our land forces will be confronted at least during the European 
phase of the war. It has become evident that what we considered the Air 
Support Command and the air support forces are not adequate for the purpose 
either in composition or organization, and by their very term give an erroneous 
impression to the ground army. 

Spaatz argued that the air support command needed access to heavy- and 
medium-bombardment units when the situation required them, that the ASC 
could not operate effectively, and that the army could not advance until the air 
force had achieved air superiority. Because air formations could move freely in 
flight, ignoring terrain, the control of air should be centralized and not divided 
into small packets among armies or corps. Spaatz listed five requirements for 
support of the ground army: 

1 . The establishment of a fighter offense and defense, including a complete 
radar network; 

2. The use of the fighter force to protect the army and to gain air superiority; 

3. The creation of a tactical reconnaissance force to meet the needs of the 

4. The creation of a fighter-bomber force to attack targets in the battle area; and 

5. The employment of a bomber aircraft capable of operation at altitudes up 
to 10,000 feet. 

Once those five elements were achieved, they could be combined to form a 
tactical air force. In fact, Spaatz suggested eliminating the term air support com- 
mand altogether. In a postscript, Spaatz also mentioned the invaluable role 
played by the air support parties and commented on the importance of personali- 
ties in the coordination of air and ground efforts: "It must be based on the princi- 
ple that the airman knows his job and the ground man knows his job, with a 
mutual respect for each others' capabilities and limitations. . . . The ground or 
the air commander should be eliminated who cannot get along with his opposite 

Arnold gave wide circulation to this and other letters from Spaatz describing 
operations and lessons learned.! 18 Some of the new air doctrine even reached 
the American public when Time magazine in its March 22, 1943, issue quoted 

Air war is a separate war, though linked to those on land & sea. . . . [sic] 
Command of the air determines what happens on land & sea. . . . [sic] The 
essential lesson leamed in the Middle East is that an air force is a separate 
offensive entity, striking at the enemy in cooperation with the army.'" 

Spaatz's March 7 letter to Arnold echoed many of the principles found in 
War Department Field Manual (FM) 100-20, Field Service Regulations, "Com- 
mand and Employment of Air Power," issued July 21, 1943. FM 100-20 institu- 
tionalized many of the lessons of the North African campaign drawn by Spaatz 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

and disseminated by him to the War Department. The proximate cause of FM 
100-20, however, was a note from Assistant Secretary of War for Air Robert A. 
Lovett to Marshall. Lovett sent Marshall a copy of a pamphlet published by 
General Montgomery. Montgomery, because of his bally hooed victories over 
Rommel in the desert, had a prestige that no other Allied ground commander 
could match at this stage in the war, thus his statements on the art of command 
took on a particularly authoritative air. 

On February 16, 1943, he and Coningham addressed an assemblage of 
Allied admirals and generals in Tripoli. Montgomery distributed a pamphlet 
entitled "Some Notes on High Command in War," in which he spelled out sev- 
eral tenets concerning the use of air power. Air power's greatest asset was flexi- 
bility, which enabled it to be concentrated for use as a striking force of prime 
importance. To gain concentration, air control must be centralized, and com- 
mand should flow through air force officers. Montgomery specifically forbade 
the dissipation of air resources into "small packets." He suggested that each 
army commander have an air headquarters with him to command all aircraft 
allotted to army support. These air forces would not, however, be under the 
"direct command" of the army commander. 120 

Coningham added some RAF clarification to Montgomery's remarks. He 
put the WDAF/8th Army experience into its simplest form saying, "The soldier 
commands the land forces, the airman commands the air forces; both comman- 
ders work together and operate their respective forces in accordance with a com- 
bined Army-Air plan, the "whole operation being directed by the Army 
Commander" [emphasis added]. The difference between "direct command" and 
"direction" had been solved for a time in the Western Desert. The difference 
between the two remained to be resolved between the AAF and the Army 
Ground Forces (AGF). Coningham also pointed out that the air force had two 
tasks: first, to gain air superiority, and afterward, to apply 80 to 90 percent of its 
hitting power to the enemy ground forces.l2l Within days Spaatz sent Arnold a 
copy of the pamphlet. '22 

On April 18, Lovett sent a copy of the pamphlet to Marshall, claiming that 
on page 2 it confirmed the principles of the War Department reorganization of 
June 1941, which established the Army Air Forces as a semiautonomous entity 
within the Army. Lovett then observed, "General Montgomery's statement with 
respect to the use of air power contains much material which, although accepted 
by the Army in principle, has not been formally embodied in our written doc- 
trine, as far as 1 know. "123 Marshall apparently referred the matter to the War 
Department General Staff's Organization and Training Division, G-3, asking 
were the doctrines acceptable to the Army, should they be embodied formally in 
Army literature, what action had been taken so far by G-3, and what did G-3 

G-3 replied that the AAF and the AGF held opposing views on Montgomery's 
doctrine, none of which had been incorporated into official U.S. Army proce- 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

dures. It also pointed to previous attempts by an AAF-AGF air support board 
appointed on December 2, 1942, to reconcile those views and to create an 
entirely new air doctrine. The board failed to agree and postponed any reconsid- 
eration of FM 31-35 pending further proof gained by combat. If anything, the 
board revealed a hardening of positions. The AAF insisted on change in the 
direction of RAF air support doctrines as tested in the Western Desert, whereas 
the AGF wished to decentralize air control to levels below division and to 
emphasize close-in, on-call missions which would expand the zone of friendly 
artillery fire. In view of the AAF-AGF failure to compromise, G-3 recom- 
mended the revision of FM 31-35 and other appropriate War Department publi- 
cations. 124 

The Operations Plans Division (OPD), the Army's Washington command 
post, approved but, noting G-3's concentration on the air-ground view, addressed 
the larger question of overall command and employment of air units at the com- 
bat theater level. The OPD told Marshall that in its opinion the theater supreme 
commander should exercise his command through the senior officer of each ser- 
vice and, in all cases, the "direct" [emphasis in original] command of AAF forces 
must be exercised by the AAF commander. Nor should the supreme commander 
attach AAF units to units of the ground forces except when ground units were 
operating independently or were isolated by distance or lack of communica- 
tion. '25 OPD recommended a position far closer to the AAF's than the AGF's. 

The Training Division began informal work on doctrinal revision in early 
May. Despite the objections of AAF officers in the General Staff, '26 elements of 
the AGF were polled, and they denounced any change. Not only was FM 31-35 
basically sound, but British air support methods, "particularly those of the Eighth 
Army" had been fully considered and their best features adopted in FM 31-35. 
Likewise, the U.S. air mission request system came from a study of the tentacle 
system. The AGF, reading between the revision's lines, raised the following 

1. Ground and air forces would be more widely separated. 

2. There would be little or no air support without air superiority. 

3. Air support, when available, would be fumished on a basis dictated by 
the air commander. 

4. Air units would not be attached to ground units, and 

5. Air support would not be decentralized. 

The AGF rejected the placement of air superiority at the highest priority, 
calling the deferment of air support until its attainment an unsound practice 
which "would impose a serious and at times insurmountable handicap on the 
ground force commander concemed."i27 

The AGF's protest had no effect on the General Staff. On May 31, a career 
air officer, Lt. Gen. Joseph T. McNamey, the Deputy to the Chief of Staff, act- 
ing for Marshall, instructed the Training Division to change the necessary train- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

ing publications. McNarney specified that the U.S. Army's new doctrine con- 
cerning command and employment of air power would include the following 
four points: 

1 . Land and air forces were co-equal and independent, 

2. Gaining of air superiority was the first requirement for the success of 
any major land operation, therefore air would concentrate against the 
enemy's air forces until the obtmnment of air superiority, 

3. Flexibility was air's greatest asset allowing concentration of the whole 
weight of air power on a specific target, and 

4. Control of air power must be centralized and exercised through air 
channels of command; the theater commander would exercise command of the 
air force through the air force commander; and the theater commander would 
not attach AAF units to the ground forces unless the ground forces were operat- 
ing independently or were isolated.'^' 

The first section of FM 100-20, when published, consisted entirely of these 
four points and repeated almost exactly the wording in McNarney 's instructions 
to the Training Division.l29 By the end of Jime, McNarney and Arnold had per- 
sonally approved a draft of the new manual. 130 Eight officers (including five 
generals) representing the infantry (2), the field artillery (1), the coast and anti- 
aircraft artillery (1), and air (4) had also carefiilly reviewed and approved the 
draft.131 Three of those general officers (Stratemeyer, Kuter, and Porter) either 
had acquired combat experience in North Africa or had recently visited the the- 
ater. All three had had extensive discussions with Spaatz on the changes needed 
in air doctrine. 132 

FM 100-20 reflected several of the thoughts Spaatz had expressed in his 
March 7, 1943, letter to Arnold: "In order for the Army to advance, the air battle 
must be won." FM 100-20 stated, "The gaining of air superiority is the first 
requirement for the success of any major land operation. "133 Spaatz had 
observed, "The control of the air units must be centralized and command must 
be exercised through the Air Force commander. . . ." FM 100-20 specified, 
THROUGH THE AIR FORCE C0MMANDER."134 Spaatz had suggested a 
tactical air force composed of fighters, fighter-bombers, medium bombers, 
reconnaissance aircraft, and radar warning and control equipment; so did FM 
100-20.135 FM 100-20 also accepted almost word for word Spaatz's admonition 
concerning the necessity of establishing a fighter-radar network: "The first pre- 
requisite for the attainment of air supremacy is the establishment of a fighter 
defense and offense, including RDF [radio direction finder], GCI [ground con- 
trol interception], and other types of radar equipment essential for the detection 
of enemy aircraft and control of our own."l36 

FM 100-20 reversed the strictures of earlier manuals. For example, FM 31- 
35 (April 9, 1942), "Aviation in Support of Ground Forces," allowed the army 
commander specifically to allocate aviation units to the support of subordinate 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

ground units whenever operations required it. 137 FM 100-20 severely circum- 
scribed that prerogative: "The Superior Commander will not attach Army Air 
Forces to units of the Ground Forces under his command except when such 
Ground Force units are operating independently or are isolated by distance or 
lack of communication."l38 The new manual also followed Spaatz's injunction 
that, in times of vital and decisive action, the strategic air force may join the tac- 
tical air force and be assigned tactical objectives. 139 in practice FM 100-20 did 
not significantly change the methods of air-ground cooperation established by 
the U.S. Army in Tunisia because, thanks to Spaatz, Tedder, Coningham, and 
Eisenhower, they were already being used. 

So well had Spaatz educated Arnold and the War Department that, when 
Kuter arrived back in the States shortly after the end of the campaign, he wrote 
to Spaatz, "My fiery conviction that air support to be effective must come from 
an air force co-equal and cooperating with the top ground force meets with prac- 
tically no excitement." According to Kuter, the War Department's Bureau of 
Public Relations had released the subject to the press "without batting an eye."l40 

A month later Arnold informed Spaatz, "With particular respect to the 
Tactical Air Force, the ideas you have worked up and forwarded to me are being 
implemented by Kuter and happen, at present, to be going full ball [sic] through- 
out the Air Forces and the War Department." He also noted that the War 
Department would issue PM 100-20 in the Field Service Regulation format 
which would be theoretically binding on the theater commander, rather than in 
the field-manual format, which had served as a guideline only. 141 

The perfection of their own version of air-ground support doctrine was not 
the only item on Arnold's and the Air Staff's agenda. They also wished to 
enhance the position of the AAF in the postwar fight for air force independence. 
After the war Kuter, for instance, admitted that "my own writing during the 
period was slanted toward the formation of a separate air force."142 He added 
that because his primary focus was on independence, he had slighted the tactical 
air power position. The AAF authors of the manual could not resist the opportu- 
nity to integrate this agenda with the lessons of North Africa. Thus FM 100-20 
became a vehicle proclaiming the independence of air power. Its entire first sec- 
tion, cast completely in capital letters, was a unilateral declaration of indepen- 
dence. It began by stating, "LAND POWER AND AIR POWER ARE 

The manual's assignment of missions to the Tactical Air Force named close 
air support as the third and last priority after attainment of air superiority and the 
prevention of the movement of troops and supplies into or within the theater of 
operations. In its discussion of this third priority the manual noted, "In the zone 
of contact [between the opposing land forces], missions against hostile units are 
most difficult to control, are most expensive, and are, in general, least effective," 
and "only at critical times are contact zone missions profitable." Finally, the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

manual prescribed adjacent or common headquarters for the air and ground 
forces only when third and last priority targets were attacked. 144 

The Army Ground Forces, as noted, did not concur in the publication of FM 
100-20. '45 They feared that centralization of all air power under an air comman- 
der might fatally damage the AGF's concept of a combined-arms force in which 
all Army strength, including air and ground, could be massed at a decisive 
point. 146 xhe AGF found it significant and almost insulting that FM 100-20 
would supersede the recently published revision of the AAF's principal manual, 
Army Air Forces Field Manual (FM) 1-5, "Employment of Aviation of the 
Army," dated January 18, 1943. This manual, which was not widely circulated, 
was certainly known to the AGF and AAF Headquarters and just as certainly 
unknown to most, if not all, of the U.S. forces in North Africa. Based in large 
part on information gathered by prewar observers in England, this manual autho- 
rized two practices banned by FM 100-20. It stated that when early warning 
facilities and communications were lacking, air defense aviation must conduct 
patrols. The manual added, 

In some situations, and particularly along the line of contact between opposing 
ground forces, such patrols may also be employed to afford some measure of 
general protection for friendly aircraft in flight. The primary purpose of such 
patrols is, however, the protection of surface objectives rather than protection 
of friendly aircraft in flight.''" 

The manual further noted that such patrols demanded an excessive number of 
planes and that issuance of antiaircraft artillery to such units was a better alterna- 
tive. Nonetheless, the manual authorized the penny-packet employment favored 
by the ground forces, albeit as a last resort. FM 1-5 allowed for the practice of 
"control or target designation by certain units directly from an air support con- 
trol, or air support officer to aircraft in flight" [emphasis added]. 148 

FM 1-5 of January 1943 was the wartime culmination of the entire series of 
prewar manuals. It took an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach. 
More than the earlier manuals, it addressed the conduct of strategic air opera- 
tions in a manner close to that advocated by air power enthusiasts. It spoke of a 
strategic air offensive, emphasized the necessity of staying with a single strate- 
gic target system and avoiding diversions, and discouraged using heavy and 
medium bombardment in direct ground support. 149 FM 1-5's treatment of 
ground support, as mentioned, reflected the views of the AGF. Yet, it empha- 
sized the interdiction mission of tactical air power rather than that of close air 
support: "The hostile rear area is the most profitable zone of action for air sup- 
port aviation. . . . Support aviation is not generally employed against objectives 
which can effectively be engaged by available ground weapons within the time 
required."l50 The manual recognized that the aircraft was a theater-level weapon best 
employed under centralized control; it allowed the direct attachment of air to 
ground units only under abnormal circumstances. But at the crucial point of the 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

land battle, and only then, "would the requirements of the supported force be 
paramount"l5l These provisions attempted to satisfy the ground commander's 
need to employ every available asset when necessary, against the airman's 
desire to conduct independent counterair and interdiction missions. The AGF 
was loath to abandon FM 1-5 for FM 100-20. 

Observations from North Africa must have confirmed this reluctance. The 
report of AGF personnel in North Africa revealed anything but the satisfaction 
Kuter and Spaatz reported back to Washington. Maj. Gen. Walton H. Walker, 
Commanding General, IV Armored Corps, arrived in Algiers on April 21 and 
left about May 8, a period when the Allies had almost complete control of the 
air. Just when Spaatz went forward to make last-minute inspections and adjust- 
ments Walker reported, "Air-ground cooperation as envisaged in training and 
maneuvers of ground force units in the United States appeared to be non-existent 
in the North African Theater."i52 Both Patton and Bradley informed him that air 
support had been unsatisfactory, but Bradley did note recent improvement. 
Particularly criticized were the quantity and frequency of air photographic 
reconnaissance and the AAF's reliance on planned as opposed to on-call air 
strikes — two areas of perennial ground force dissatisfaction that still defy agree- 
ment between air and ground. 153 

When Spaatz observed that the ground commanders seemed dissatisfied 
because they could not get all the air support they wanted when they wanted it, 
he had hit the nail on the head. Both Coningham's and FM 31-35's cumbersome 
communication links, which required ground requests for air to go from the 
ground to an air headquarters and from there to an airfield, lent themselves to 
concentration and centralization of air command and control by airmen. By the 
same token, this communication system did not lend itself to speedy response to 
immediate ground requests for air support. Throughout the campaign, ground 
combat officers complained of the lack of on-call, or immediate-response, air 
strikes. Brig, Gen. Paul M. Robinett, Commander of the 1st Armored Division's 
Combat Command B, which suffered heavy casualties under British command, 
wrote to Marshall: "The coordination of tank attacks with infantry and air 
attacks has been perfect on the German side. On our own side it has yet to be 
achieved." Robinett strongly implied that placing all air and ground forces 
attacking an objective under the ground commander could solve the problem. 154 
At the campaign's end. Col. William B. Kern, a battalion commander of the 1st 
Armored Division, remarked, "I believe that we will have to come to some sim- 
ple system of requesting air support. The present system of going back through 
so many channels is wrong. We haven't time for it." Maj. Gen. Charles W. 
Ryder, Commander of the 34th Infantry Division, added, "The system of calling 
through two or three different headquarters for air support simply will not give 
the support desired at the time desired. Adequate air support can only be 
obtained by direct call from the division to the air. Any other system," observed 
the general, "is too slow and will result in loss of opportunities."i55 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Given good two-way radio communication between pilots in the air and 
ground observers (a practice that Coningham forbade and that technology, at 
that point, could not then guarantee) and a great many airplanes available for 
ground support missions (not available until later in the war), the close air sup- 
port problem could be overcome in wartime. Ehiring the campaign in northwest- 
ern Europe, for instance, overwhelming numbers of fighter-bombers and 
innovations such as two-way radios installed in the leading tank elements of 
attacking Allied armored units allowed Allied tactical ak forces to supply mas- 
sive amounts of airborne firepower to the battlefield. FM 100-20 replaced 
FM 1-5, not FM 31-35. It left in place the clumsy, slow methods of air-ground 
connmunications found in FM 31-35, which stayed in effect until postwar revi- 
sions. In practice, however, the troops in the field appear to have ignored FM 
31-35 in favor of local air-ground arrangements. 

The high-level centralization of "photo recon" tended to delay the timely 
dissemination of its products for use in fluid combat situations. Spaatz attempted, 
but only at the end of the North African campaign, to solve this problem by 
attaching XII ASC's photo reconnaissance squadron directly to II Corps.* The 
AGF's nonconcurrence gave the promulgation of FM 100-20 the aura of an 
AAF putsch. As Kuter remarked to Coningham, "More people were defeated in 
Tunisia than Germans and Italians."l56 why Marshall agreed to sign the manual 
remains a mystery. Perhaps he felt that this concession to the AAF would mute 
its increasingly public agitation for independence. 

Although he fully understood the new doctrine, Spaatz did not regard it as 
the last word in the Army versus the AAF. In summing up their relationship he 
said, "The situation is normal. If it was not for the disturbance which would 
ensue, I would probably announce the urgent necessity of a separate Ak Force." 
Even the most understanding contacts and intentions at the high command level 
could not offset the ground-air difference, "which permeates the entire struc- 
ture." In Spaatz 's opinion, the minor day-to-day problems, not the strategic or 
tactical application of forces, proved the stumbling block of interservice rela- 
tions. "I will emphasize," he told Arnold, "that air operating under the command 
control of a ground officer will most probably be improperly used."l57 in an 
interview in 1965, Spaatz restated this point in answer to a question about the 
major lessons of World War II: "I think the first lesson was the one about air 
being indivisible and in order to develop effectively, it must be controlled by air 
people that developed it, and not under the Army or any other form of organiza- 
tion other than the Air Force."l58 

At the beginning of the campaign in North Africa in November 1942, the 
AAF and its commander encountered three problems that hampered their efforts 

* In addition to its employment difficulties, air reconnaissance presented a "political" problem 
to the AAF in North Afiica because the commander of the chief photo reconnaissance unit was one 
of President Roosevelt's sons, Elliott Roosevelt. 


Collapse of the Axis Bridgehead 

to defeat the Axis: faulty organization, poor logistics, and the lack of an effec- 
tive air-ground team. By the time of the fall of Tunis and Bizerte in May 1943 
the Allies had built an organization, the NAAF, capable of employing air power 
in a flexible and coherent manner against the enemy. The functional separation 
of the Northwest African Air Force into a ground support force and a long-range 
bomber force necessitated by British experience in air-ground cooperation on 
the one hand, and the AAF's virtual theaterwide monopoly on long-range 
bombers on the other hand, proved so sensible that the practice continues in the 
USAF to this day. The relatively smooth functioning of its combined staff 
served as a model for later Allied organizations. 

Spaatz played no small role in the success of the NAAF. Perhaps his supreme 
ability as a commander was his willingness to delegate authority and responsibil- 
ity. He resolutely refused to interfere with the day-to-day operations of either 
Doolittle or Coningham. He trusted them to do the jobs they had trained for, 
while he served as a theater-level air spokesman. With Tedder, Spaatz kept 
Eisenhower aware of the needs and limitations of air power. On several occa- 
sions he served as Eisenhower's air troubleshooter. When the campaign was two 
weeks old, Eisenhower ordered him to North Africa to bring order to the chaotic 
air situation. When the campaign had only two weeks to go, Eisenhower sent 
him forward to solve Anderson's and Bradley's air support problems. 

The Americans, despite claims to the contrary, did not develop an air-ground 
team. Spaatz himself had to spend days at the front during the campaign's finale, 
tinkering with arrangements and dealing with Army complaints. Complaints con- 
tinued into the Sicilian campaign. Brig. Gen. Paul L. Williams, XII ASC's 
Commander and therefore the senior officer most closely connected to the ground 
forces, apparently identified with his mission of close air support rather than with 
air independence. In one of his reports he made the mistake of saying: "I am thor- 
oughly convinced that the organization of an Air Support Command based on the 
principles of FM 31-35, is sound, workable, and 1 strongly recommend that all 
such commands be organized in this manner with certain modifications as indi- 
cated herein." He added, "I and my principal staff officers lived and operated with 
the Corps Commanders during most of the period. This is absolutely essential."i59 

Not surprisingly at the end of the campaign Williams found himself trans- 
ferted from the XII ASC to a troop carrier wing where he could cooperate to his 
heart's content with Army airborne troops while not being allowed to overiden- 
tify with close air support. After the war an Air Staff officer who had reviewed 
FM 100-20 before publication and had gained experience in North Africa 
described the publication of Williams's report as "premature" and ascribed it to 
a misguided chauvinistic adherence to American concepts. The officer noted 
that Spaatz neither supported nor endorsed the report. '60 But in fact, Spaatz sug- 
gested to Arnold that the report be "given the highest consideration"l6l and 
demonstrated that, as a combat officer, he did not take so hard a line on air- 
ground doctrine as the AAF staff in Washington. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Perhaps the most telHng statistic on the AAF's attitude toward close air sup- 
port concerned the training status of the U.S. Army's ground divisions in the 
United States on January 1, 1944, six months before the invasion of France. 
Thirty-three still needed aviation for joint training and initial air-ground tests, 
twenty-one had not witnessed a recognition demonstration of the various types 
of aircraft, and forty-eight had had no opportunity to participate in the compara- 
tive air-ground firepower demonstrations required by regulations. 1^2 

Although close air support still did not quite meet the mark, it had improved 
from the beginning of the campaign. The interdiction and counterair phases of 
tactical air power proved spectacularly successfiil once the command and con- 
trol arrangements of air improved enough to allow flexibility. This flexibility 
allowed (1) the concentration of all forces at the crucial time and place, as with 
Flax or the close air support effort for Anderson's April offensive; (2) the 
encouragement of specialized functions, such as daily antishipping strikes by the 
Strategic Air Force; and (3) the day-to-day supply of close air support by the 
Tactical Air Force. 

For the relatively modest butcher's bill of 1,433 casualties (277 killed in 
action, 406 wounded, and 750 missing, interned, or captured), and 666 air- 
craft of all types lost on combat missions, 1^4 the AAF acquired a revision of air- 
ground support doctrine and gained recognition of the principle of equality 
between air and ground on the battlefield. More important, the AAF had gained 
valuable combat experience and demonstrated its ability both to overwhelm the 
Luftwaffe and to interfere with the operations of German ground forces. Carl 
Spaatz was instrumental in that watershed development of U.S. air power. 


Part Three 

Mediterranean Interlude 

From Pantelleria to London 
May-December 1943 

Part Three 
Mediterranean Interlude 

During the second half of 1943, Spaatz and his command fought to maintain 
a significant role in determining air strategy in the Mediterranean, to assert AAF 
independence from the U.S. Army and RAF, and to participate in the Combined 
Bomber Offensive aimed at the German heartland. During late May and early 
June, the NAAF conducted operations against Pantelleria, a small Italian-occu- 
pied island in the straits between Tunisia and Sicily. The surrender of this island 
on June 11, 1943, demonstrated that, in certain instances, air power alone could 
force the surrender of a fortified position. Pantelleria also provided a case study 
in combined operations, air-ground cooperation, and AAF-RAF relations. 

The AAF and Spaatz contributed to the success of the Anglo-American 
invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943, and of Italy at Salerno on September 9, 

1943, by providing air-ground support and air cover for the invasion fleets. 
During the Allied drive up the Italian peninsula to the Cassino Line, American 
air power in the Mediterranean continued to provide air-ground support and 
began to prepare to participate in the Combined Bomber Offensive against 
Germany by forming a new U.S. air force with a strategic bombardment mis- 
sion — the Fifteenth. 

In early December 1943, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt met in Tehran, 
Iran, where they agreed on future strategy for the conduct of the war against the 
Nazis. The planned cross-channel invasion of France was scheduled for spring 

1944, and Eisenhower received the top command of the invasion, code-named 
Operation Overlord. Tedder became Eisenhower's deputy. 

The British and American Chiefs of Staff also approved both the appoint- 
ment of an American strategic bomber commander to command and coordinate 
the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces and the transfer of Spaatz to fill the post. 
The move coincided with Arnold's replacement of Eaker with Doolittle as 
Eighth Air Force Commander. Arnold had become increasingly disenchanted 
with the Eighth's combat performance and had assigned Eaker to replace Tedder 
in the Mediterranean. By January 1, 1944, Spaatz had arrived in London to 
assume his new command. From there he would direct U.S. participation in the 
Combined Bomber Offensive and assume de facto direction of U.S. air-ground 
support of Overlord and the subsequent campaigns through to the final defeat 
of Germany. 


Chapter 7 

Pantelleria and Sicily 
(May-August 1943) 

If the fates decree what I would love most is to have the old 
gang reassemble at Rehoboth. Whatever is happetiing now 
is a nightmare, with some few pleasant interludes.' 

— Spaatz to a friend, June 18, 1943 

General Spaatz came to see me. As usual he was dirty and 

— Lt. Gen. GeorgeS. Patton's diary, August 5, 1943 


After the Axis surrender in Tunisia on May 13, 1943, and before the Allied 

invasion of Sicily, on July 10, 1943, the Northwest African Air Force (NAAF) 
concentrated its force first against Pantelleria (code-named Operation 
Corkscrew) and then against the German and Italian air forces in Sicily, 
Sardinia, and the lower half of the Italian Peninsula. (See Map 7, Pantelleria.) 
Pantelleria occupied a key position between Tunisia and Sicily, fifty-three miles 
from the former and sixty-three miles from the latter. German radar on the 
island, which had a range of eighty miles, could detect any large movement of 
shipping or aircraft from Tunisia to southern Sicily. Pantelleria also had an air- 
field capable of holding eighty fighter aircraft, as well as the capacity to serve as 
a base for Axis reconnaissance aircraft and as a fuel and munitions depot for 
submarines and motor torpedo boats. Allied capture of the island would not only 
deny it to the enemy, but would gain a forward base for one group of short-range 
P-40 or Spitfire fighters to cover the Sicilian invasion fleets and landing 
beaches. Fighters based at North African fields had insufficient range to reach 
Sicily, and the Malta fields could hold no more aircraft. In addition, crippled 



SEA ? 

^ 1 v#ape Don 




V Linosa 


S » Lamplone 

S Lampedusa 



Map 7 

■ • ■ ■ Motor Roads 
X Pos8Jbl« Landing Areas 

0 50 100 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

Allied aircraft would be able to use Pantelleria's airfield if they could not return 
to their own base. The neutralization of the island became even more important 
when the final plans for the Sicilian invasion required an assault on the southern 
beaches near Licata and Gela. The U.S. invasion forces headed for those beaches 
would have to sail within easy range of Pantelleria.3 

Pantelleria, a military zone forbidden to imauthorized persons by the Italian 
government since 1926, presented a potentially tough nut. Its one small beach 
suitable for amphibious assault had tricky offshore currents and high surf. The 
island's surface of volcanic lava and ash could not support vehicular traffic and 
was cut by numerous ravines. The Italians had reinforced these natural defenses 
with more than a hundred concrete gun emplacements supplemented by fortified 
positions and pillboxes imbedded in the cliffs. Sturdy peasant farmhouses and 
hundreds of high, thick stone walls, which delineated each farmer's fields, pre- 
sented further miUtary difficulties. But Pantelleria had a weak spot — its defend- 
ing garrison. Before the invasion, Allied intelligence judged the morale of the gar- 
rison doubtful — a surmise strengthened by the poor performance of Pantelleria's 
antiaircraft batteries during the end of the Tunisian campaign.^ The island's 
approximately 12,000 defenders were mostly overage and inexperienced; many 
had homes and families on the island.5 In addition, the island was effectively 
deprived of help from the mainland because Allied air superiority over the entire 
area prevented resupply and reinforcement. 

After the fall of Tunisia Operation Corkscrew became the Allies' chief pri- 
ority. Allied planners in charge of the invasion of Sicily had begun to consider 
an assault on Pantelleria as early as February 1943.^ On May 9, Eisenhower 
started preliminary preparations. He ordered Tedder to make the full strength of 
Spaatz's NAAF available for action to remove Pantelleria as a bottleneck to 
Allied ambitions in the Mediterranean. He further directed Admiral Andrew 
Cunningham of the Royal Navy to provide naval striking force and protection 
for the movement of a division to the island.^ Finally, he set up a combined 
command consisting of Spaatz, Maj. Gen. Walter E. Clutterbuck, Commander of 
the British 1st Division, which would land on the island, and Rear Adm. R. R. 
McGrigor of the Royal Navy, commander of the naval forces in the assault, to 
oversee the operation. Eisenhower authorized his commanders to postpone the 
landing, but he reserved the right to abandon the project if losses or opposition 
grew too heavy.8 By virtue of his recent promotion, Spaatz outranked the British 
officers heading up the other sections of the combined operation. This fact, at 
least, made the air component primus inter pares. 

Two days later Eisenhower informed the U.S.-British Combined Chiefs of 
Staff (CCS) that he desired to take Pantelleria in order to use its airfield to sup- 
port the western portion of the invasion. In the same message he noted that he 
thought the Allies could "crack this place" because its . garrison consisted entirely 
of Italians.9 

Operations against Pantelleria presented an excellent opportunity to display 


Maj. Gen. W. E. Clutterbuck (.right), General OfHcer Commanding, 1st British 
Infantry Division, 1943. 

Rear Adm. R. R. McGrigor, Royal Navy, 1943. 

Pantelleria and Sicily 

the prowess of air power. The island required a heavy and sustained bombard- 
ment to reduce its defenses. Air had to supply this firepower because army 
artillery could not reach the island and Allied naval commanders would not risk 
their heavy units in the submarine- and mine-infested narrows, which remained 
subject to attack by the still-respected Axis air forces. In contrast, the island lay 
well within striking distance of Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) 
fields in Cape Bon. On May 13, Eisenhower told Marshall, 

I want to make the capture of Pantelleria a sort of laboratory to determine the 
effect of concentrated heavy bombing on a defended coastline. When the time 
comes we are going to concentrate everything we have to see whether damage 
to material, personnel and morale cannot be made so serious as to make a land- 
ing a rather simple affair.'" 

Spaatz meant to pass his superior's test of air power. He committed to the 
assault the entire Strategic Air Force and part of the Tactical Air Force, an 
armada of four heavy-bomber groups, seven medium-bomber groups, two light- 
bomber groups, and eight fighter groups, a total of slightly more than 1,000 
operational aircraft, n Against this concentration the Axis had 900 operational 
combat planes within range of the island, most of them committed to tasks other 
than defending Pantelleria.l^ 

Spaatz met with his British Navy and Army colleagues on May 16 and pre- 
sented the air plan of operations. It called for three days and nights of increas- 
ingly violent attacks, at the end of which the Navy would approach the island to 
test the remaining strength of enemy defenses. On the fourth day, the Allies 
would summon the garrison to surrender. Refusal by the garrison would be fol- 
lowed by a "high order" of air attack on the afternoon and night of the fourth 
day and the landing of troops on the morning of the fifth day. Apparently the 
Army and Navy accepted the plan, although General Clutterbuck expressed 
great concern about the amount of residual resistance his troops might have to 
overcome. 13 Spaatz discounted Clutterbuck 's complaints and, in the privacy of 
his personal headquarters mess, began to refer facetiously to Clutterbuck as 

The next day. May 17, Spaatz expressed to Eisenhower his belief that the air 
component ought to control the operation, while the Army and Navy should 
conform to the air commander's decisions. He also emphasized that the current 
bombing of Pantelleria constituted only part of a larger Allied air effort to sup- 
press the German and Italian air forces in anticipation of the battle for Sicily. 15 

The preparatory bombing of Pantelleria began on May 19. Fifty medium- 
bomber and fifty fighter-bomber sorties a day struck Pantelleria's airfield and 
port in an effort to prevent any resupply of the island. These attacks, supple- 
mented by a naval blockade, increased in tempo on May 23 and by the end of 
the month had almost completely cut the island's supply lines. Additional raids 
against Axis airfields in Sicily, Sardinia, and the toe of Italy helped to prevent 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Axis air interference with the Pantelleria operation and the all-important inva- 
sion of Sicily. 16 

Just before the initial bombing of the island got under way, Spaatz started an 
inspection trip of the NAAF's rear echelons. He flew from Eisenhower's head- 
quarters in Algeria to Casablanca on the evening of May 17. There he met Brig. 
Gens. John K. Cannon and Delmar Dunton, who commanded the Northwest 
African Training Command (NATC) and the Northwest African Service 
Command (NASC) respectively. The next day, Spaatz inspected the air depot at 
Casablanca and found it well stocked and efficient, a far cry from its state during 
his initial inspection in November 1942. Later that day, the three generals flew 
to Marrakech where they decided to release the facilities there from the purview 
of the NAAF and place them under the Air Transport Command. On the follow- 
ing day, the party flew from Marrakech east to Oujda, where they inspected the 
99th Fighter Squadron (Separate).!^ 

The 99th was the first all-black AAF combat unit to reach an overseas com- 
bat theater. Its thirty-year-old commanding officer, Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis, 
Jr., a West Point graduate and son of Brig. Gen. Benjamin Davis, the first black 
general in U.S. history, caught Spaatz's eye. Spaatz's diary recorded that 
"Lieutenant Colonel Davis impressed me most favorably, both in appearance 
and intelligence." Spaatz also noted that the squadron would be attached to the 
33d Fighter Group for use in ground support and would receive the same treat- 
ment as any similar white squadron.18 

On May 20, Spaatz returned to Oujda and reviewed troops of the 82d 
(Airborne) Division. He hosted a lunch followed by a meeting with Lt. Gen. 
Mark W. Clark, Commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, Clark's chief of staff, Maj. 
Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther, and Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, Commander of 
the 82d Division. They agreed on the advisability of employing a battahon of the 
82d in the upcoming Sicilian invasion. When talk began to drift to further opera- 
tions, Spaatz expressed some wildly unorthodox viewpoints on future courses of 
action. To avoid slogging through Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy the Allies could, he 
suggested, buy Spain off very cheaply and secure the necessary control of the air 
to cross the Pyrenees. Once they crossed the Pyrenees and reached the Bay of 
Biscay, they could eliminate the submarine threat, "the only chance Germany 
had of still winning the War." An invasion "through Spain was the best way of 
putting an Army on the continent of Europe."l9 Spaatz did not stop there. He 
suggested that the Americans exclude the B'ritish from the Iberian operation and 
thus more easily persuade the Spanish to cooperate. 

Clark not only agreed with Spaatz but added that on an earlier occasion he 
had discussed a similar idea with Marshall, who had proved sympathetic. 
Marshall had told Clark that Churchill opposed the idea. The generals concluded 
their session after deciding that, because the Americans were supplying the 
majority of combat forces, their plan for invading Spain ought to have priority 
over operations in the Mediterranean, which supported purely British national 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

interests. Clark said he would present the results of this brainstorming to 
Eisenhower that very aftemoon.20 

If he did, they went no further. Whatever his limitations, if any, as a field 
commander, Eisenhower had far too much political and diplomatic talent and 
knowledge to seriously consider any such plan. It revealed an abysmal ignorance 
of Spanish politics and demonstrated a cavalier disregard of the numerous logis- 
tical and geographical difficulties involved. Nonetheless, it reflected the impa- 
tience of some Americans in the higher mihtary echelons toward the strategic 
direction of the war forced on them by the necessities of coalition warfare. 

On May 22, Spaatz flew to meet Eisenhower, Cunningham, Alexander, and 
Tedder. Among other matters they discussed preparations for the Pantelleria 
operation. Admiral Cunningham, with certain reservations, backed Eisenhower 
in approving them.2i Alexander, the top ground commander in the theater, had 
his doubts.22 The consequences of failure, such as raised Italian morale, worried 
him greatly. Spaatz replied that if the Allies could not accomplish the reduction 
of the island, "we might as well pack up and go home. "23 

Later the same day Spaatz met with Clutterbuck and McGrigor to discuss 
operational specifics. At the end of the meeting, the three agreed to draw up a 
final plan and present it to Eisenhower. Spaatz went over its outlines with 
Eisenhower the next day and received his approval to go ahead with it.24 It fol- 
lowed the original recommendation that an increasing level of air bombardment 
culminate with a final intensive bombing attack on the five days prior to landing, 
scheduled for June 1 1 . Apparently, Clutterbuck still had objections because 
Eisenhower noted in a letter to Marshall on May 25 that some of those responsi- 
ble for carrying out the invasion "are shaking their heads. "25 in fact, Clutterbuck 
visited Eisenhower to tell him of his doubts about the attack and said that he 
"feared that he would have a great number of his men slaughtered."26 

On May 24, at his forward headquarters in La Kroub, Spaatz again met with 
McGrigor and Clutterbuck to conclude their plans for convoys and lines of com- 
munication. They also scheduled rehearsals for three days (D-3) and one day (D- 
1) before the actual invasion. Two days later, Spaatz flew to Malta and met its 
air commander. Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, who agreed to allow NAAF 
planes to use Malta as a refueling point and to cooperate fully in moimting the 

On his return from Malta, Spaatz found that Professor Solly Zuckerman, a 

medical doctor and research anatomist who had temporarily vacated an appoint- 
ment at Oxford to conduct studies on the effects of bomb damage, had arrived at 
NAAF Headquarters in Constantine. The British Chief of Combined Operations, 
Lord Louis Mountbatten, had brought Zuckerman into his organization. There 
the professor became Mends with the Deputy Chief of Combined Operations for 
the air element. Air Vice-Marshal James Robb, who later became Deputy 
Commander of the NAAF under Spaatz. Robb had introduced Zuckerman to 
Spaatz in March 1943, and the two apparently hit it off. Zuckerman wrote about 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

his first dinner with Spaatz's staff that "they were men who were learning, as I 
was learning, and unlike some professional military people whom I had met, 
there was no assumption of superior knowledge, and no assurance that they 
knew how Germany was going to be defeated. "27 

Two months later, Zuckerman, then in London, received a request by tele- 
gram from Robb to go to North Africa. Upon his arrival on May 22, Zuckerman 
met Tedder, another old friend, who sent him to Spaatz's headquarters with 
instructions to comment on the feasibility of the forthcoming Pantelleria opera- 
tion. After a two-day study in which he applied the statistical and quantitative 
methods he had employed in his scientific and anatomical studies, Zuckerman 
replied that the forces available could silence Pantelleria's shore defenses.28 
From then until he issued his final report on the island's damage in July 1943, 
Zuckerman became a part of Spaatz's staff. He roomed with Brig. Gen. Lauris 
Norstad,29 Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, NAAF, and attended all plan- 
ning sessions.30 

Zuckerman 's first task after demonstrating the feasibility of the operation 
was to help prepare a detailed bombing plan. He had constant exchanges with 
Spaatz, Robb, Norstad, and McDonald, who, according to Zuckerman, made it 
plain that they had every confidence in his ability to produce an effective and 
precise bombing plan of a kind that had not been designed before.^i The profes- 
sor repaid the airmen's confidence by producing one that (1) provided precise 
aiming points; (2) called for detailed reports and analysis of each sortie; (3) 
required extensive photo reconnaissance; and (4) demanded the plotting of every 
bomb burst on a grid, with attention paid to the relationship of bombs identified 
to total dropped, the position of burst in relation to gun positions, and any dam- 
age caused. As a last proposal, Zuckerman called for an extensive ground survey 
of the island after it was captured.32 

Even before the professor presented his plan's final draft, Spaatz's forces 
began to execute it. Photos and reports poured into the schoolroom where 
Zuckerman, with a small staff and photo interpretation experts, assessed damage 
and assigned new targets. The plan called for enough bombs to be dropped on 
each battery to destroy only one-third to one-half of its guns; peripheral bomb 
damage would inactivate the rest of the battery by damaging gun sights and 
communications and storage facilities and would bury everything in rubble. 
Once the analysts had determined that a battery had received sufficient explo- 
sives, they redirected their effort. On each of the twelve days prior to the inva- 
sion, Zuckerman submitted a report to Norstad, who forwarded it, with appropri- 
ate changes of orders, to each command.33 

While the professor orchestrated the bombing, Spaatz coordinated other 
aspects of the invasion within the NAAF and with the Allied ground and naval 
forces. On May 28, he met with Brig. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada, Deputy 
Commander of the Coastal Air Force, and with a representative of Air Marshal 
Arthur Coningham, Commander of the Tactical Air Force. Spaatz made it clear 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

to both that the Pantelleria invasion would have priority over any other task fac- 
ing their commands and that he would accept no excuses for failure. 34 When dif- 
ficulties arose on June 3-4, during a preinvasion test exercise involving the 
Royal Navy command ship, HMS Largs, a five-year-old, 4,500-ton vessel des- 
ignated a Landing Ship Headquarters and packed with communications gear, 
Spaatz flew to Sousse on the coast of northeastern Tunisia, the location of inva- 
sion task force headquarters. 

Clutterbuck and McGrigor reported an almost complete failure in air cooper- 
ation with both army and navy elements of the invasion force. Although final 
test results indicated three satisfactory communication links — between the ship 
and individual planes, between the ship and NAAF headquarters, and between 
the ship and task force headquarters at Sousse — the communication links 
between the ship and the Tactical Air Force and the XII Air Support Command 
(XII ASC) failed. Spaatz ordered the air inspector to investigate. The Xn ASC, 
at Spaatz's orders, would begin flying a daily mission against Pantelleria under 
the sole direction of the naval command ship and was to maintain constant com- 
munication with it at all times. In addition. Coastal and Tactical Air Forces 
would henceforth maintain full-time liaison officers at task force headquarters. 
Spaatz returned to Constantine convinced that much of the doubt in the minds of 
the British Army and Navy commanders stemmed from their own interservice 
rivalry with the RAF.35 Upon returning to his headquarters Spaatz instructed 
Robb to "inform Coningham that my impression was that he was a trifle too 
indifferent in his arrangements for Corkscrew, particularly in connection with 

Meanwhile, the bombardment of Pantelleria steadily increased in fury. On 
June 1, the first B-17s attacked the island. Together with P-40 fighter bombers 
they dropped 141 tons of high explosives; on June 4, heavy, medium, and fighter 
bombers unloaded an additional 200 tons of bombs. Between May 18, when the 
bombing began, and June 4, the NAAF flew 1,700 sorties flinging 900 tons of 
ordnance, many of them 250- or 500-pound high-explosive bombs, on the har- 
bor and airfield and 400 tons on Pantelleria's gun positions.^^ Starting with June 
7, D-day minus four (D-4), the level of attack increased daily, especially when 
General Doolittle, Commander of the Strategic Air Force, lowered the bombing 
altitude after disappointing results. 38 

On June 7, Spaatz flew back to Sousse. At 5:30 the next morning, (D-3), he 
boarded Admiral McGrigor's flagship, a small Hunt Class destroyer-escort, 
HMS Whaddon, for a personal look at the effects of bombing and naval gunfire 
on Pantelleria. Clutterbuck and Zuckerman were also on board. In addition to the 
eight destroyers of McGrigor's task force, five cruisers from the British Mediter- 
ranean Fleet joined in the shelling. One of them, HMS Aurora, had Eisenhower 
and Admiral Andrew Cimningham on board. They, too, wished to view the pro- 
ceedings. 39 

As the Whaddon approached the island around 10:00 a.m., Clutterbuck 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

became visibly upset, complaining about the spasmodic nature of naval fire and 
what he considered excessive intervals between air strikes.40 When the Whaddon 
joined in the bombardment, firing 36-pound shells from its twin 4-inch guns, 
Spaatz muttered to Zuckerman, "What the hell kind of damage do they think 
these small shells will do?"4l This sentiment was echoed by the professor, who 
noted in his memoirs that photo interpretation throughout the campaign never 
revealed any significant damage by naval fire."*2 A little before 11:00 a.m. the 
medium bombers attacked two gun batteries. Then came the pi^ce de resistance. 
Doolittle's B-17s rumbled over Pantelleria at 12,000 feet; their bomb salvos, 
aimed at two of the island's batteries, completely obscured the coastline with 
smoke and dust. This sight even encouraged Clutterbuck.43 

Throughout the bombardment of June 8, only three Italian batteries at- 
tempted to engage the ships offshore, and the garrison did not put up a heavy 
barrage against the attacking aircraft. After the B-17s completed their mission, 
fighter-bombers dropped surrender leaflets and the Allies declared a unilateral 
six-hour cease-fire. These overtures elicited no response from the Italians, and 
so the attack resumed in the afternoon. The ships returned to harbor. Eisenhower, 
who had spent the day on a 6,000-ton cruiser, reported to Marshall that he and 
Cuimingham "were highly pleased both with the obvious efficiency of the air 
and naval bombardments, and with their coordination achieved as to timing."44 

Those who had spent their day baking in the Mediterranean sun on an unsta- 
ble 1,000-ton destroyer-escort returned to port in a much more irascible frame of 
mind. Spaatz grumbled in his diary. 

This particular show has been 95% air, and would have been difficult under any 
circumstances, but has been doubly so by the reluctance of AFHQ 
[Eisenhower] to place an Air Officer in complete charge of the show. It has 
been only by virtue of my outranking the other officers that air has been able to 
take control, but it could have been easier . . . had this authority been vested in 
me, or an Air Officer."" 

Spaatz also directed that the next time Eisenhower observed an air attack he 
should have an air officer at his side to prevent his getting too big a dose of navy 
attitude. Apparently upon disembarking, Clutterbuck immediately fired off mes- 
sages to Tedder and Eisenhower, complaining that communication failures in 
the test exercise and the XII ASC's "lack of interest in" the operation had jeop- 
ardized the success of the invasion.46 

Eisenhower and Tedder responded promptly to Clutterbuck's signals. 
Eisenhower sent his chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, and Tedder 
sent two men, his chief deputy and his chief of staff. Air Vice-Marshal H.E.P. 
Wigglesworth and Brig. Gen. Patrick W. Timberlake, to invasion force head- 
quarters at Sousse, apparently with instructions to investigate the operation's air- 
ground cooperation arrangements. When the extra stars arrived on June 9 (D-2), 
Spaatz noted tartly in his diary that "having so many fingers in the pie at the last 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

minute does not lend much help to the operation at this stage of the game."'*^ 

Tedder's men tested the signal arrangements, found them satisfactory, and 
returned to Tedder's headquarters in Algiers with what Spaatz hoped was a 
"clearer picture of the trouble which can be caused by one nervous ground force 
man."48 Bedell Smith stayed to the end of the operation, partly because 
Eisenhower had begun to be apprehensive regarding its ultimate conclusion — a 
case of nerves caused in some measure by "a number of long faces" at his own 

Over and above his meetings with Bedell Smith, Timberlake, and Wiggles- 
worth, Spaatz double-checked arrangements for the invasion. He talked with 
AAF Brig. Gen. Aubry C. Strickland, one of the supporting aircraft pilots in the 
Question Mark flight who now commanded the NAAF Air Service Command 
troops scheduled to prepare the island's airfield for its new Allied occupants. 
Strickland's 2690th Base Command would also tend to the occupation chores 
involving Pantelleria' s civil population.50 Strickland reported that he had col- 
lected his troops and, at the moment, had that no further problems. Spaatz also 
instructed his supply officers to make sure that no stoppages occurred in the air 
supply line. He wanted definite assurances that NAAF planes had sufficient 
bombs, ammunition, and fuel to maintain maximum effort on both D-day and 
the days immediately preceding and following it.5i 

By 11:00 the next moming, June 10, Spaatz and his staff boarded the HMS 
Largs, from which they observed the last day of air activity and the dispatch of 
the invasion fleet. By 8:30 the next moming on D-day, June 11, the Largs had 
sighted Pantelleria and within an hour had sailed to within ten miles of it. By 
10:30 A.M. the assault boats had formed up and awaited only the signal to start 
their final run to the beach, timed to coincide with the end of the naval bombard- 
ment and a last B-17 strike. The Tactical Air Force completed its bombing by 
10:00 A.M., and the Strategic Air Force's heavy bombers pounded the island one 
last time at 11:30 A.M., an instant before the first troops hit the beaches. On 
board the Largs, Clutterbuck continued to exhibit unease, even though the ship's 
display boards showed that all bombing had followed schedule and that 300 
additional sorties had punished the island since 10:00 a.m. Spaatz's command 
diary noted scornfully, "Timidity on his part has been prevalent throughout the 
entire operation."52 

The landing itself proved anticlimactic. As troops hit the beach, offshore 
observers noted a white flag flying over the island. During the night of June 
10-11, Vice Adm. Gino Pavesi, the Italian military governor of Pantelleria, had 
informed Rome that the Allied bombing was unendurable.53 On the moming of 
June 1 1 , Pavesi held a staff meeting. All present agreed that the situation had 
become untenable. There was no water (bombing had destroyed the water plant), 
no communications, and nearly no ammunition. In addition, almost all 24,000 
people on the island were exhausted. Before he sighted the invasion fleet, Pavesi 
had already made the decision to surrender by 1 1 :00 a.m. on June 1 1 . 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

The already low morale of the defenders had crumbled under incessant bom- 
bardment and the shortages of basic supplies. Many of the local militia, who 
manned the antiaircraft batteries, had deserted in order to assist their families. ''4 
From May 8 to June 1 1 , the NAAF had dropped 6,200 tons of bombs and had 
flown 5,285 sorties, with the loss of fourteen aircraft destroyed or missing. AAF 
planes accounted for 5,000 tons of bombs and 4,387 sorties. 55 Naturally, Spaatz 
was pleased, as was Robert A. Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air, who 
had come to North Africa in late May and had stayed to witness the conclusion 
of the operation. The two sent a telegram to Arnold briefly describing the battle 
and concluded by saying, "The boys have really done a grand job."56 

The Allies transferred their attention and air strikes to the Pelagies (a group 
of three small islands: Lampedusa, Linosa, and Lampione also located between 
Africa and Sicily), which surrendered the next day. 

A day after the surrenders, Spaatz sent Zuckerman to Pantelleria to prepare a 
thorough report on the exact nature and effectiveness of the bombing. This 
prompt action reflected Spaatz' s concern that studies by the ground forces or 
navy hostile to air might downgrade the effectiveness of the air effort.57 While 
waiting for the professor's final report, which he did not receive until July 20, 
Spaatz drew some immediate conclusions from the experience which led him to 
recommend three improvements: (1) longer-range radar for command ships; (2) 
manning of opposite ends of communications links by members of the same ser- 
vice and country; and (3) coordination of all bombing, whether tactical or strate- 
gic, with and through the control ship.58 

In Spaatz 's mind, at least, Pantelleria had confirmed the most extreme theo- 
ries of air power enthusiasts: air power alone could defeat a major power. While 
still in the afterglow of the Pantelleria success, Spaatz wrote to a friend: 

The application of air power available to us can reduce to the point of surrender 
any first class nation now in existence within six months from the time that 
pressure is applied. In applying the pressure, any or all of the air must be 
directed against anything which can prevent or interrupt our air effort. Any 
conception of modem Warfare which does not fully recognize the foregoing is 
marking time in place.'' 

Two days later, Spaatz forwarded to Tedder the preliminary analysis of 
damage by Zuckerman and in his cover letter expressed his conclusions a little 
less boldly: "Precision bombing deserves a precise plan, and air forces properly 
employed can destroy or reduce the operational effectiveness of defenses to a 
point where the will to fight ceases to exist." In a bow to Zuckerman, Spaatz 
acknowledged, "Air force operations must be planned to employ scientifically 
forces adequate to secure the degree of material destruction necessary to reduce 
the objective. A by-product of such operations will almost certainly be complete 
demoralization." Again referring to Zuckerman's application of the scientific 
method, Spaatz wrote, "The force necessary to destroy communications and to 
isolate a given area is a matter of mathematical calculation. In this instance, the 


Pantelleria, June 1943. Wrecked Italian Fiat and Macchi aircraft litter a field 
(above) on the island of Pantelleria after an Allied raid. The entrance to an under- 
ground hangar (below) indicates the protection such aircraft were afforded. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

force employed succeeded in paralyzing what can be regarded as a front of fif- 
teen miles, with a reasonable factor of safety." 

Spaatz had two more points: (1) an ascending and continuous scale of bom- 
bardment coupled with deliberate and successive elimination of strong points 
will markedly affect the defenders' morale and paralyze their repair facilities 
and services; and (2) "unless topographical features exist, which allow the pre- 
cise definition of targets and bombing lines, the air cannot be expected to pro- 
vide a precise barrage immediately in front of ground or naval forces."60 

These were the views of an air power zealot. Fortunately for himself and the 
AAF, Spaatz reserved most of them for his Command Diary. The Pantelleria 
operation merely confirmed his long-held opinion that ear, in order to exert its 
dominant role in warfare, required equality with the army and the navy and that 
equality could come only with independence for the air forces. As Spaatz 
explained to Zuckerman, "There was one 'A' too many in the designation 
U.S.A.A.F."^ — ^the 'A' that stood for Army — and Pantelleria would help get rid 

The operation also provided an opportunity for one of the pioneering efforts 

in the application of scientific analysis and quantification to combat, particularly 
in operations research for the AAF and the closely related field of operations 
analysis. Zuckerman's methods and results predisposed airmen, such as Spaatz, 
to seek more opportunities to apply them. Zuckerman's work received mention 
in Eisenhower's dispatch on the fall of Pantelleria: 

A less intense bombardment might, in the light of later knowledge, have subju- 
gated the island, but there would have been lacking essential data for the study 
of the tactical possibilities of scientifically directed eiir bombardment of strong- 
point[s], and the most economical disposal of available air strength. Professor 
Zuckerman's exhaustive report on the subject may prove of as much value in 
the fight against the Axis as the capture of the island.^ 

Zuckerman's final report showed that although the batteries received bomb- 
ing on a scale of 1,000 tons of bombs per square mile, the amount of firepower 
lost to each battery ranged from 10 percent to 75 percent, with an average of 
more than 40 percent lost for all batteries.63 Only two batteries received direct 
hits and the attacks neutrahzed forty-three of the eighty guns, ten of them per- 

Not all analysts of Operation Corkscrew have agreed with Spaatz 's most 
extreme conclusions. Clutterbuck pointed out the failure of the XII ASC and the 
Largs command ship to establish satisfactory communications links during prac- 
tices. He argued that communications between the two would have failed disas- 
trously had they been needed.^5 

Montgomery's recent biographer, Nigel Hamilton, condemned the effort 
expended in the conquest of Pantelleria as an "unfortunate distraction" and 
bemoaned the casualties "sacrificed to this auman's fantasy of how the Axis 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

enemy could be defeated by air power alone."66 Hamilton implied that the effort 
could have been better spent by softening up Sicily, as if the initial German 
counterattack on the Sicilian beachheads could have been totally prevented by 
air power. To blame many of Montgomery's problems in Sicily on inadequate 
preinvasion air bombardment does air power and Montgomery no service. 
Without the presence of the 33d Group's P-40s and Spitfires flying from Pan- 
telleria's field, Montgomery would have had even less support. 

As the AAF ofTicial history admitted, "In the final analysis the morale of the 
defenders was the determining factor in the failure of Pantelleria to put up a 
strong and prolonged resistance. The air assault not only hurt the enemy's ability 
to resist; it broke his will."67 The AAF's conclusions were literally true, but the 
extremely low morale of the garrison was not so much the product of air bom- 
bardment as of other factors. The air bombardment probably provided a face- 
saving excuse for an action the garrison would have taken in any case. A more 
resolute defending force, despite the damage inflicted by Allied air power, 
would certainly have made the landing a far bloodier affair. 

Preinvasion Planning and Air Preparations for Sicily 

At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the Anglo-American allies 
decided to continue their campaign in the Mediterranean by invading the island 
of Sicily after the fall of Tunisia. Planning for Husky, the code name for the 
operation, began in February 1943. The Allies did not complete the main ele- 
ments of the plan until May 13. Before that date they had intended to land on 
two widely separated points on the island. The Americans would land on the 
northwest near the key port of Palermo, and the British would land in the south- 
east near the port of Syracuse. However, thanks in part to the strenuous objec- 
tions of General Montgomery ,68 Commander of the British 8th Army which 
would conduct the British portion of the landing, the final arrangements called 
for the Americans to land on the left flank of the British at Licata, Gela, and 
Scoglitti, with the immediate seizure of the large airfield complexes of Ponte 
Olivo, Biscari, and Comiso as their first objective. The British would land near 
the port of Syracuse and move inland. Spaatz's Northwest African Air Force 
would carry the brunt of the air responsibility for the invasion. 

The NAAF first had to destroy or neutralize Axis air power prior to the 
assault. Next, it had to provide close air support to the naval, ground, and air- 
borne assault forces. It also had to shield the invasion area, ongoing naval opera- 
tions, and the assault convoys from enemy air attack while taking the offensive 
against enemy shipping and naval forces. Additional air units based in Malta and 
the Middle East would aid the NAAF in its endeavors.69 

The NAAF's plans placed all units in Malta under the command of the Air 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Officer Commanding, Malta, who in turn came under the general direction of 
the Commander of the Northwest African Tactical Air Force, Arthur 
Coningham. Air plans further ensured the maximum amount of flexibility by 
arranging for a high degree of coordination between the Northwest African 
Tactical and Strategic Air Forces; depending on the situation, either air force 
might come under the operational control of the other J" 

The air plan had three main phases. The first phase, from the defeat of the 
Axis in Tunisia to July 3, called for the NAAF to bomb systematically Axis air 
forces and Italian industry over a widely dispersed area so as not to give away 
the invasion target. The heavy bombers would bomb airfields in Sardinia, Sicily, 
and southern Italy, along with the ports of Naples, Messina, and Palermo and 
industrial targets in southern Italy. Harris's Bomber Command would strike tar- 
gets in northern Italy, in the hope of keeping some Axis air forces out of the 
invasion area. The second phase of the bombing, the week before the invasion, 
would switch attacks to enemy communications with Sicily and concentrate on 
enemy airfields with round-the-clock bombing. This phase ignored landing 
beaches in the hope of maintaining tactical surprise. The third phase, after the 
invasion, would keep the Allied air forces continuing their counterair attacks 
while maintaining air superiority over the island. 

The AAF official history notes that "the air plan dealt for the most part with 
broad policies and it had not been integrated in detail with ground and naval 
plans. This was deliberate and the result of sound strategic and tactical consider- 
ations."'?2 Unlike the North African campaign, the Sicilian operation would 
ensure the air forces the maximum flexibility in their employment and prevent 
the immobilization of air resources caused by parceling air out to specific units 
or sectors. As the operation began, 4,900 operational Allied planes faced 990 
German and 700 Italian air force operational aircraft.'73 

As the invasion approached, the photographic and signal intelligence section 
at Spaatz 's headquarters in La Marsa put together the products of both sources 
of information on an hourly basis.74 Spaatz, as usual, paid special attention to 
ensuring rapid dissemination and use of the fruits of the intelligence effort. On 
June 18, he ordered a direct communications link set up between the NAAF War 
Room in La Marsa and the forward command posts of the Tactical, Strategic, 
and Coastal Air Forces. He also directed that each air force's forward command 
post have present for duty at all times an officer with the authority to make bind- 
ing decisions for that air force.75 These measures increased his control over sub- 
ordinates and helped to enable all elements of the NAAF to respond quickly to 
the latest German moves. 

Throughout the Sicilian campaign, the NAAF performed its many tasks suc- 
cessfully. Before the invasion, its heavy- and medium-bomber groups, aided by 
the bombers attached to the U.S. Ninth Air Force and by its own fighter- 
bombers, kept up their attacks on the Axis air forces. These attacks, which 
started with strikes assisting the NAAF's April 1943 assault on German air 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

transport into the Tunisian bridgehead and continued through and after the anti- 
air strikes supporting the Pantelleria operation, rose to a crescendo in the week 
preceding July 10 (D-day). Spaatz firmly believed in the necessity of conducting 
a vigorous counterair offensive before other land, sea, or air operations began. 
On June 24 he observed to Arnold, "The German Air Force becomes very cocky 
when it has a few successes. It then becomes necessary to give them a thorough 
beating on their airdromes as well as in the air."''^ 

By the beginning of June, the Luftwaffe had started to transfer bombers from 
Sicily and southern Italy to southern France and northern Italy. This move dimin- 
ished its ability to attack the ports where the Allied invasion forces assembled. 
Ultra, however, revealed an increase in Luftwaffe fighter and fighter-bomber 
activity on Sicily, which continued until July 3. At that point the NAAF began a 
final week of intensive bombardment, which reduced the number of fighters by 
one-third and caused the fighter-bombers to withdraw. Diversionary and coun- 
terair raids on Sardinia in the week before the invasion reduced the 130 
Luftwaffe fighter-bombers there to 35 percent serviceability and denied them the 
aviation fuel necessary for sustained operations. Added to the invaluable infor- 
mation gained from signal intelligence was detailed aerial photographic recon- 
naissance. NAAF aircraft took special photos of industrial areas and communica- 
tion lines and daily pictures of the Corsican, Sardinian, Sicilian, and Italian air- 
fields and the ports berthing the major surface combat units of the Italian fleet.'?'? 

By July 10, only two airfields on Sicily remained entirely serviceable. Also, 
NAAF strikes against communications lines had totally disrupted the Sicilian 
rail network by destroying rolling stock and repair facilities. As a final fillip, on 
July 9, NAAF Spitfires shattered the Hotel San Domenico at Taormina, the Luft- 
waffe's headquarters on Sicily. This raid, prompted by the pinpoint accuracy of 
signal and other intelligence, dislocated the Luftwaffe's response on the day of 
the invasion.''^ The NAAF's effective preinvasion attacks of Sicily helped to 
limit to 12 ships the losses among the invasion fleet of 3,000 craft as a result of 
Axis air action, as opposed to the original estimate of possibly 300.^9 

When the Allied troops reached the shore, Coningham's Northwest African 
Tactical Air Force once again shouldered its responsibilities for air-ground 
cooperation. Allied air had an equal voice in air-ground arrangements. It had not 
in the invasion of North Africa in 1942. Montgomery's 8th Army continued its 
excellent relationship with Air Vice-Marshal Harry Broadhurst and the Western 
Desert Air Force. On the U.S. side Spaatz had spent considerable energy provid- 
ing support for Lt. Gen. George S. Patton's U.S. Seventh Army. 

On May 13, Spaatz, Tedder, and Coningham met and agreed on new com- 
mand arrangements for air support and cooperation. Col. Paul Williams, 
Commander of the XII Air Support Command (XII ASC), the principal U.S. 
component of the Tactical Air Force, was to move over to Troop Carrier 
Command (TCC), a unit charged with the delivery and supply of airborne troops 
in the combat zone. Col. Lawrence P. Hickey would take command of XII ASC 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Headquarters, which would become a glorified air support party attached directly to 
Patten's headquarters. The fighter units of XII ASC would join the Third Air 
Defense Wing directly under Coningham's command, while Brig. Gen. John K. 
Cannon replaced Kuter as Coningham's second in command and principal 
American deputy. Finally, Teddra- was to meet with all army commanders and senior 
air officers before the invasion in order to completely clarify arrangements. The con- 
ferees also agreed that when U.S. forces had firmly established themselves on Sicily, 
the XII ASC would reconstitute itself as a major combat unit.80 According to Spaatz, 
these moves resulted from his feeling that the Tactical Air Force had not given the 
U.S. n Corps enough help in the just-completed campaign.8i 

The new arrangements left Patton unsatisfied. He noted in his diary on May 
22, "Tedder controls the air with Spaatz, a straw man, under him. . . . 
Conyngham [sic] commands the tactical air force and the close support air force 
by another British Vice Air Marshall [sic]. Our close support force is com- 
manded by a Colonel. . . . The U.S. is getting gypped. "82 Patton took his com- 
plaints to Alexander, who passed them on to Spaatz. For his part, Spaatz assured 
Alexander that he had placed Catmon in Coningham's headquarters precisely 
because Patton had more faith in Cannon than in any other air force officer. 
Spaatz promised to send Cannon to Patton as soon as the former had a chance to 
become familiar with his new job.83 

LL Gen. Carl A. Spaatz receiviag a report from meinbers of the 90th Photographic 
Intelligence Wing, North Africa, July 1, 1943. 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

Two days later on May 24, Spaatz met with Cannon, told him of the earlier 
promise to Alexander, and instructed him to see Patton within the week. Spaatz also 
noted that Patton had expressed apprehension to Eisenhower as well and instructed 
Cannon to inform Patton that the air reconnaissance squadron attached to his head- 
quarters would receive its orders directly from XII ASC and not Coningham.84 

Before the landing Spaatz made one major change in the implementation of 
the air support command arrangement. He replaced Colonel Hickey, who had 
apparently never gained the confidence of Coningham,85 with Maj. Gen. 
Edward J. House. This change mollified both Coningham and Patton while mak- 
ing the rank of the Commander of XII ASC equal to that of Air Vice-Marshal 
Broadhurst's, Air Officer Commanding the Western Desert Air Force. 

Air Power and the Invasion of Sicily 

With few exceptions, air power performed successfully throughout the 
Sicilian campaign. Although the NAAF's efforts minimized friendly ground and 
naval losses to enemy air power, air-ground cooperation again proved unsatis- 
factory to the U.S. ground forces. For most of the campaign on-call air support 
remained non-existent. Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, Commander of VI Corps, 
voiced an apparently widespread opinion: "Air missions took too long to accom- 
plish even after the planes had been moved to Sicily. Authority to fly this mis- 
sion could be obtained in about three hours whereas the mission itself took only 
20 or 30 minutes."87 

Near the end of the fighting, however, the Allies introduced the "Rover Joe" 
(in British usage, the "Rover" tentacle), a communications unit located with 
front-line divisions or brigades or sometimes smaller units, consisting of an 
armored scout car equipped with radio sets and a joint staff of army officers and 
one RAF officer. It communicated with the Army Air Support Control, the joint 
Army-RAF communications group at the WDAF/8th Army Headquarters; with 
the Air Liaison Officer at the wing or group airfield; and, by means of a VHF 
radio, directly with aircraft over the target area. The staff of the tentacle kept in 
close touch with the local army unit commander. If he approved an air strike, the 
liaison officer at the wing was briefed. When the planes arrived, the tentacle's 
RAF officer directed them to the target. The U.S. Seventh Army and XII ASC 
used a similar system based on the jeep.*^^ 

The partial failure of airborne operations as well as the failure to prevent the 
Axis evacuation of Sicily by completely interdicting the Straits of Messina 
marred the air effort. The initial paratroop and glider forces landed on D-day 
(July 9), seized many of their objectives, and caused great confusion to the 
island's defenders. Nonetheless, the landings proved costly in terms of man- 
power; and, because the troops were so widely scattered, their effect on opera- 
tions was disappointing. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Subsequent missions did not remedy initial problems, and one reinforcement 
mission flown on the night of July 1 1 resulted in heavy losses for little discernible 
gain. This mission was scheduled to drop the 504th Parachute Regiment's 2,300 
soldiers into the friendly American beachhead at Gela at about 1 1 :00 p.m. Its 
approach route took it over friendly ships offshore and then over American-occu- 
pied positions in Sicily. Generals Patton, Bradley, and Matthew B. Ridgway (the 
parachutists' commander) all took extreme care to inform the Army, especially 
the antiaircraft crews, of the drop and instructed them to hold their fire. They 
also received assurances from the Navy that guaranteed antiaircraft-free passage 
over ships offshore. 

Unfortunately, the mission arrived on the heels of the last Axis air attack of 
several that had hit the area during the day. An earlier attack had blown an 
ammunition ship sky-high. A gunner in the fleet, confused and nervous from a 
day of Axis bombing and perhaps uninformed of the drop, opened fire on the 
slow, low-flying, troop-carrying aircraft. Within seconds every antiaircraft gun 
on ship and shore joined him. They slaughtered the unprepared and ungainly 
transports, shooting down 23 and damaging 60 of the 144. The 504th Regiment 
reported 81 dead, 132 wounded, and 16 missing.89 Pilots lost formation and geo- 
graphical bearings and proceeded to scatter the paratroops from Gela to the east 

Eisenhower demanded an immediate investigation by both Patton and 
Spaatz, exclaiming, "If the cited report is true, the incident could have been 
occasioned only by inexcusable carelessness and negligence. . . . You will insti- 
tute within your command an immediate and exhaustive investigation into the 
allegation with a view of fixing responsibility." Eisenhower also asked for a 
complete statement of disciplinary action taken, if any proved necessary.91 

Spaatz visited both the 51st and 52d Troop Carrier Wings on July 13 and 
met with all group commanders who had led missions on the nights of July 9 
and 11. As he informed Arnold in a letter the next day, he found morale high 
despite the losses. Spaatz had several pertinent observations for Arnold, who 
enthusiastically supported airborne operations: (1) airborne operations can avoid 
excessive casualties only by achieving surprise; (2) excessive losses will occur if 
troops are dropped on organized battle positions; (3) ground and naval units 
need extensive training to prevent them from firing on friendly aircraft; and (4) 
surface forces should get ample warning before an airborne overflight of their 
positions and should be forbidden to fire on any planes during the designated 
time of the overflight.92 Tedder endorsed the report, adding, "A. A. firing at 
night is infectious and control almost impossible. "93 The lessons Spaatz, 
Eisenhower, and the advocates of airborne operations gleaned from the Sicilian 
operation paid dividends in the planning for the airborne phase of the cross- 
channel invasion. 

In addition to the supervision of combat operations, which, of course, 
required much of Spaatz 's time and effort, two other related matters received 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

significant attention: the question of a separate postwar U.S. Air Force and the 
establishment of an all-Atnerican, all-AAF, Mediterranean-wide command. In 
summing up the Tunisian campaign, Spaatz had written to Arnold, "If it were not 
for the disturbance which would ensue, I would probably aimounce the urgent 

necessity of a separate Air Force. "94 This comment reflected not only his opinion 
of the just-completed campaign but also the experiences and conclusions over his 
entire career. In 1925, at Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell's court-martial, 
Spaatz had stated that the air arm could not function properly under the aegis of 
the War Department, and the eighteen years after the trial had only served to rein- 
force that opinion. On June 1, Spaatz, in a conference with Doolittle and Maj. 
Gen. Follett Bradley, who commanded one of the U.S. continental air forces 
charged with training and had just arrived from Baker's Eighth Air Forces 
Headquarters in Britain on a trip at Amold's behest, agreed that, although the cur- 
rent air organization was adequate for the defeat of Germany, the final campaign 
against Japan would require the separation of the U.S. Army Air Forces from the 
U.S. Army. Spaatz added that the AAF ought to disentangle itself from the British 
Army and the RAF as well. This action would enable the AAF to set up all-U.S. 
strategic and tactical air forces whose commanders would have equal rank with 
the Army Ground Forces commander. The overall air commander would outrank 
the ground force commander.95 These musings did not leave AAF circles. 

Spaatz also believed that air power should have a preeminent place not only 
in the Sicilian invasion but in any amphibious operation. Before the Sicilian 
landings he observed, "The next operation will be successful, but the same mis- 
take is being made which was made in the Pantelleria assault — that of placing 
air as a secondary power to the ground forces and not giving them the top 
command when air success is first in importance in making the operation a suc- 
cess. "^^ A few days later, on July 5, he codified his ideas on the proper role of 
air power in future operations as follows: (1) air power isolates the area where 
the ground forces will attack; (2) air power will attain air supremacy over that 
area; (3) enemy forces and fortifications will be reduced by a rising scale of 
attack a la Pantelleria; and (4) only after the completion of the foregoing actions 
will ground forces, fully supported by tactical and strategic air, begin their 
assault. Spaatz added that, in operations having a further lead time for planning 
than HusKY/Sicily, the air commander should have the supreme command and 
army and navy forces should start their combat operation only after the air com- 
mander had given the go-ahead.^^ 

It should also be noted that Spaatz did not view the Strategic and Tactical 
Air Forces as units that operated entirely independently of one another. Many 
times he made it clear that strategic forces should be employed in roles that pro- 
vided direct support to the ground forces when required — during, for example, 
preinvasion and breakthrough operations. On at least one occasion he com- 
plained to Eisenhower that Tedder tended to overcompartmentalize strategic and 
tactical air activities.98 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

In August, Spaatz had another opportunity to advance the AAF's drive for 
independence and equality. U.S. Senators of the Select Committee to Visit the 
War Theaters, after spending time in England with Eaker's Eighth Air Force, 
flew into Marrakech to tour the North African Theater. On August 13, Spaatz 
and Tedder met with Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., of Massachusetts, the com- 
mittee's Republican member. Two days later, Spaatz met with three Democratic 
members, Sens. Richard B. Russell of Georgia, Albert B. Chandler of Kentucky, 
and James M. Mead of New York, and with Sen. Bennett C. "Champ" Clark 
who, although not appointed to the select committee, had apparently attached 
himself to it. At both meetings Spaatz emphasized the necessity of separating 
the air force from the ground army .99 He even asked General Wilson, the 
group's escort, to keep that thought "foremost" in any conversations he had with 
the Senators. 100 

Spaatz's papers contain a rather florid draft of a statement that he apparently 

used in his conversations with the committee members. Entitled "Separation and 
Efficiency," dated August 3, 1943, the ten-page draft, which may or may not 
have been personally written by Spaatz, presents an AAF insider's argument for 
the division of the U.S. armed forces into three equal branches for the purposes 
of combat and economic efficiency. "Why," asks the paper, "does the one major 
service that has demonstrated its powers remain a divided weapon, existing in 
many forms under several services but consolidated and coordinated nowhere?" 
After a lengthy examination of the differences in the handling of air power 
between the Army Air Forces and the Navy, in which the latter is found want- 
ing, the paper suggests a reform of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff which would 
grant to the air force an equal vote with the two other services and to the head of 
the Joint Chiefs the power and responsibility to make final decisions. The paper 
also recommends the establishment of theater commands on the same joint 
bases. The complete separation of the AAF Air Staff from the War Department 
General Staff would accompany reform. lOl The select committee proved infer- 
tile soil for such proposals. As Spaatz probably realized, serious congressional 
consideration of the proper position of the AAF in the U.S. military hierarchy 
would have to wait until after the war. Upon its return to Washington in October 
1943, the committee merely noted, "Close integration of our land, sea and air 
forces has been accomplished in most theaters and works extremely well. It 
points the way to a sound post-war military policy ."102 

Along with his desire for the eventual independence of a U.S. air force 
within the U.S. military structure, in the summer of 1943 Spaatz had a more 
immediate goal — independence from the Royal Air Force. The February 1943 
reorganization of Allied air power in North Africa had set up the Northwest 
African Air Forces and had provided the NAAF with a combined U.S. -British 
staff from Spaatz's headquarters dovm to, but not including the combat group 
level. From the Kasserine Pass crisis to the Axis surrender in Tunisia, the 
NAAF's arrangements had worked well, although Spaatz believed that the good- 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

will of the individuals involved had been more responsible than any intrinsic 
merit or stability in the structure itself. 103 

Spaatz also found the air arrangements between the NAAF and Air Chief 
Marshal Arthur Tedder's Mediterranean Air Command (MAC) less than perfect, 
he "expressed the fear that MAC was becoming too operational, and that there 
was an increasing tendency for that command to go direct to elements of the 
NAAF."104 The practice of bypassing Spaatz's headquarters, especially in com- 
munications between Tedder and Coningham, rankled the Americans. On May 
24, Spaatz had a conference with Coningham's American deputy. Brig. Gen. 
John K. Cannon; Spaatz stated that "the Tactical Air Force has the tendency to 
consider itself an independent air force" and that he expected Cannon to keep 
him "informed of any tendencies or concrete action in this direction." Spaatz 
added that he ultimately aimed to group all American tactical units under 
American command. In the meantime, Spaatz cautioned Cannon, the reconnais- 
sance squadron attached to the U.S. II Corps should not come under the com- 
mand of Western Desert Air Force, a British command, or Tactical Air Force, 
nor would he permit the reorganization or breaking up of any American 
groups. 105 

On June 1, Spaatz told Doolittle that he preferred to have all American 
Tactical and Strategic Air Force units under a U.S. commander and that he 
thought it best to "extricate" the AAF from the RAF. Three days later Spaatz 
noted in his diary a disagreement between himself and Coningham about which 
particular American officer should command the XII ASC, an all-U.S. unit. On 
June 6, Spaatz became extremely irked when Coningham treated the Pantelleria 
operation in a particularly offhand manner. Later, through his deputy. Air Vice 
Marshal Robb, he advised Coningham that a change of attitude would be desir- 
able. On June 12, at the conclusion of the Pantelleria operation, Cannon and 
Spaatz met again at Sousse. Cannon reported that MAC had sent a signal mov- 
ing the U.S. 33d Fighter Group from the Tactical to the Coastal Air Force three 
days prior to the final assault. This action had clearly intruded into Spaatz's 
realm of authority as Commanding General, Twelfth Air Force, and Command- 
ing General, NAAF. Spaatz instructed Cannon to tell Coningham that "if he car- 
ried out any future orders received direct from MAC he would be relieved of his 
command — that all orders should come direct from NAAF." Spaatz further 
spelled out his view in person to Tedder on June 21: "MAC does not have the 
right to exercise control over units under the command of NAAF," Spaatz 
claimed, "unless [that] order is coordinated through HQ, NAAF."106 

The establishment in mid- June of a joint MAC-NAAF advanced command 
post at La Marsa blurred further the lines of authority. This command post, 
which served as the control center for the Sicily operation for both Tedder and 
Spaatz, had direct radio links to all of the NAAF's and MAC's subordinate com- 
mands. It also served as a collection and analysis point for photographic and 
electronic intelligence. Access to this communications network and intelligence 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

made it easier for MAC to assume a larger operational role at Spaatz 's expense. 
By June 27, Spaatz's American chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Edward P. Curtis, had 
begun to suggest that the joint command post wasted too much staff. Spaatz 
replied that he expected an early break, with NAAF Headquarters moving for- 
ward while MAC stayed behind. 107 

By July 12, Spaatz apparently had decided to ensure his control of U.S. air 
units even if it meant completely bypassing the British. On that date he ordered 
the creation of a new communications network manned entirely by Americans. 
The system, which would operate only between senior U.S. officers, would have 
no central filing system; copies of messages would be kept only by sender and 
recipient. Spaatz wanted the system, which soon became known as Redline, in 
effect by August 1. The first link was to be established between Cannon and XII 
ASC, presumably to give XII ASC a way to circumvent Coningham. Spaatz also 
wanted the network so flexible that even missions akeady airborne could still be 
recalled. When established, the system would give Spaatz complete control, 
without British interference, over all AAF units and personnel in the Mediter- 

Spaatz planned to go even further in separating his forces from the RAF. On 
July 12, he instructed Generals Cannon and Quesada "to have officers in train- 
ing so that you will have them ready to take over. I want the 12th Fighter 
Command built up so that key personnel will be trained when the Americans are 
in complete control." Spaatz also wanted American officers in each function of 
the Tactical and Coastal Air Forces who could take over at a moment's 
notice. The next day Spaatz told Doolittle that future plans for the NAAF 
were unstable. 

Eventually, Redline grew into a swift and effective all-Ainerican commu- 
nications system. Redline traffic reveals that the most voluminous message 
files deal with Cannon at the Tactical Air Force. Spaatz used this link as a 
means of asserting his control over the U.S. units in Coningham' s command, 
where responses to his regular orders were consistently delayed. He simply 
had copies repeated to Cannon over Redline. An early exchange of messages 
typifies the traffic. On August 7, Spaatz testily wired Cannon, "It is stated in 
the Tactical Air Force Operations Report for August 5 that Desert Air Force 
sent three A-36 missions to toe of Italy et cetera. On my visit yesterday I was 
assured that A-36 groups are operating under command control of 12 Air 
Support Command. Answer immediately as to what circumstances Desert Air 
Force gives orders to A-36 groups?"!^^ Three hours later Cannon replied, 
"Tactical Air Force Operations Report for August 5 is in error. Desert Air 
Force never repeat never under any circumstances gives orders to A-36 groups 
or to any other organizations assigned to 12 ASC'ii' In contrast, Spaatz and 
Doolittle seldom resorted to Redline since their regular channels had no 
British middlemen and, of course, Doolittle responded to Spaatz, his American 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

commanding officer, with a great deal more alacrity than he did to Coningham. 
Cannon, for his part, could not use regular channels because they ran straight 
through Coningham. 

On the morning of July 18, Spaatz and Eisenhower met to discuss the reor- 
ganization of the AAF in the Mediterranean Theater. Butcher, Eisenhower's 
naval aide, described in his diary how Allied Force Headquarters viewed 
Spaatz's status: "This situation has resulted in Spaatz being virtually squeezed 
out of his job, yet the vast majority of all aircraft in operation are American. 
Ike is keenly aware that there may be American reactions against the current 
arrangement."! '2 

Later in the day Spaatz visited Eisenhower with a long message for Marshall 
which, after some discussion, Eisenhower sent. "After careful examination and 
test of the U.S. air organization in the Mediterranean, Spaatz and I," wrote 
Eisenhower, "have concluded that the Ninth Air Force should be abolished as a 
separate entity and incorporated into the Twelfth." Eisenhower gave six consid- 
erations that influenced his decision. The first three concerned the advantages in 
having only one AAF headquarters with a single logistical and administrative 
organization. The last three addressed Spaatz's and the AAF's problems with the 
RAF. Eisenhower explained: 

Under the existing setup the entire air force is under the strategic control of the 
Air Chief Marshal [Tedder], yet his principal American assistant [Spaatz] has 
direct control over only part of the American force. In other words the 
American Air Force and principal American commander do not have that pres- 
tige that should be theirs. 

In his next point Eisenhower explained that recent operations had shown the 
need for the consolidation of Tedder's and Spaatz's headquarters, in order "to 
permit the constant and instant coordination of all air forces in the Mediterranean." 
Furthermore, in the heat of intensive fighting, tactical and strategic air force opera- 
tions merged into one problem that was virtually impossible to coordinate 
through more than one headquarters. Thus, if Spaatz had a secure position as 
commanding general of all AAF forces in the Mediterranean, the NAAF could 
disappear and Spaatz could serve as Tedder's deputy. This post would give 
Spaatz "a position of great strength, prestige, and influence," while allowing the 
British to maintain the overall strategic responsibility for the theater allotted to 
them by the directives of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The scheme would also 
"provide absolute continuity of American command of all American units from 
top to bottom."! 13 

In his reply to Eisenhower's message, Marshall accepted the outline of the 
plan. Eisenhower asked Spaatz to prepare a response, which he sent out under 
Eisenhower's signature on July 26.114 On August 22, Eisenhower joined the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

units of the U.S. Ninth Air Force to those of the U.S. Twelfth Air Force.* This 
action placed every AAF unit in the theater under Spaatz and administratively 
moved the units belonging to the defunct Ninth Air Force from the control of the 
British Desert Air Force to the U.S. Twelfth Air Force. In practice the Ninth's 
units continued to perform their old roles in the Strategic and Tactical Air Forces. 
The move did not solve the problem of overlapping functions between MAC and 
NAAF which continued to plague the two organizations until they joined to form 
Headquarters, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), on December 10, 1943. 

Eisenhower and Spaatz met in Algiers on August 4 where Spaatz informed 
his superior that he and Tedder disagreed on air reorganization "primarily 
because of the extent to which I insist that American units be commanded by 
American commanders all the way up to the highest command." Eisenhower 
agreed to return Tedder's headquarters from La Marsa to Algiers, to separate 
Tedder from day-to-day operations while keeping him where he could supply 
advice on air matters close at hand. Back at his headquarters, Spaatz told his 
staff that the NAAF had just reverted to its status prior to the establishment of 
the NAAF-MAC Combined Command Post — in other words, the NAAF had 
direct control of operations. He added that Tedder would accept this arrange- 
ment before they retumed to Algiers.! 15 

This state of affairs lasted five days and then Eisenhower reversed himself. 
In Tunis, on August 9, in a meeting with Eisenhower, Tedder, Coningham, and 
Alexander on planning for the invasion of Italy, Spaatz had an opportunity to 
present organizational problems. He noted that the current situation left 
Coningham in doubt as to the chain of command. The situation could be cor- 
rected if orders to Coningham and Doolittle came from the NAAF, not from a 
combined NAAF-MAC headquarters or from MAC alone. In addition, MAC 
Advance Headquarters should be disbanded, and morning meetings between 
MAC and NAAF no longer held. 

After the meeting, Eisenhower told Spaatz that he had changed his mind, 
perhaps succumbing to urgings from Tedder. As a result, Spaatz and Eisenhower 
were back to the position they had taken in their July 18 message to Marshall. 
Eisenhower "stated that he did not want anything to develop which would indi- 
cate that the RAF and the USAAF could not operate together." He wanted MAC 
as the "top over-all" headquarters, with the Twelfth Air Force as an administra- 
tive head for all U.S. units. Spaatz complied and directed his staff to send to 
MAC all nonadministrative functions of the NAAF. Spaatz noted in his diary, 
"This is a compromise organization and will be successful only if senior staff 
officers are very careful to consider the proper prerogative of staff officers of 
other headquarters."! 16 

* Headquaners, Ninth Air Force, was transferred to England to lead the U.S. tactical air force 
intended to support the cross-channel invasion. The Ninth Air Force had been part of the Northwest 
Afiican Air Forces. 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

In fact although not in name, Spaatz became Tedder's deputy. He main- 
tained a voice in overall strategic direction and zealously championed the 
administrative separation of the British and U.S. air forces in all but the top 
command levels. Yet despite his stand, day-to-day operational control of Allied 
air power in the Mediterranean increasingly tended to become Tedder's pre- 
serve. Spaatz would have found much to agree with in the postwar statement of 
his successor as deputy, John Slessor: 

The position of deputy commander is not an easy one; he is rather liable to be 
neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red herring and his responsibility is not easy 
to define. As in all these things, it depends largely on personalities, and on 
friendly arrangements between the commander and his deputy about who does 
what — an arrangement easier to agree upon than to make known to all subordi- 
nate commanders.'" 

Spaatz had succeeded in gathering the disparate AAF elements in the theater 
under a single U.S. commander, and he remained Eisenhower's principal 
American air adviser. But he had failed to separate the AAF from the RAF com- 
pletely, and the two would remain harnessed together, thanks to Tedder's pre- 
eminent position as overall Air Commander in Chief. 

This squeezing out of Spaatz left Coningham with what amounted to inde- 
pendent control of the theater's tactical air forces. Spaatz could not and Tedder 
did not control him. Several errors in judgment by Coningham, which went 
uncorrected by higher air authority, may have contributed to the unsuccessful air 
interdiction of the Axis evacuation from Sicily across the Straits of Messina to 
Italy. From August 1 1 to 17, the Germans and Italians, working independently, 
evacuated more than 100,000 men, 9,800 vehicles, 47 tanks, 150 guns, and 
17,000 tons of munitions and stores. Three German divisions escaped to fight 
again. The Allies had made no plans as they had in the Tunisian campaign to 
halt this retrograde movement, which earned the Allied conmiand structure and 
each of the three services equal shares of the reproaches from postwar analysts. 

Land forces, particularly the British, did not press the Axis forcefully 
enough to prevent them from disengaging the vast majority of their troops. The 
naval forces would not risk the loss or damage of their heavy units by bringing 
them into the confined waters of the straits in order to sink the evacuation ships. 
The Allied high command structure, influenced perhaps by Hitler's previous 
refusal to evacuate Tunisia, not only did not anticipate the evacuation but failed 
to realize it had begun until very late in its progress. Neither Eisenhower nor his 
three chief subordinates, Alexander, Cunningham, and Tedder, pushed hard 
enough or coordinated readily enough with their colleagues to mount the com- 
bined ground, naval, and air effort necessary to close the Straits of Messina. 119 

Finally, the air forces, under Coningham, made several mistakes. Coningham 
assumed that the evacuation would take place largely at night, and he anticipated 
heavy air opposition over the straits. Both these reasonable assumptions proved 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

wrong, but he did not abandon them. Although he had the authority to request 
the assistance of Strategic Air Force's heavy bombers, medium bombers, and 
fighters, with twelve hours' advance notice, subject to Doolittle's approval, 
Coningham apparently never requested the American daylight bombers after 
August 9. From July 29 to August 17, NAAF heavy bombers flew only 142 sor- 
ties over Sicily. 120 Most of the NASAF therefore devoted itself to attacks on the 
Italian mainland distant from the straits, in preparation for the upcoming inva- 
sion of Italy. On the day the main German withdrawal began, Coningham noti- 
fied Tedder that, should a big withdrawal develop, "we can handle it with our 
own resources and naval assistance."i2l In fact, Coningham overestimated the 
ability of the NATAF to halt the evacuation. The Axis powers had brought up 
numerous heavy and light antiaircraft guns to defend the crossing. These put up 
such intense fire that NATAF's light bombers and fighter-bombers could not 
operate effectively against Axis shipping, which also carried heavy antiaircraft 
armament. 122 ^for did Coningham press home his attacks, perhaps because he 
and his superiors sensed no emergency. On August 16, the last full day of the 
evacuation, with an available force of 970 aircraft, he sent only 317 sorties 
against the straits.i23 After the war, Coningham himself concluded, "The escape 
of a large number of the enemy at Messina proved that a density of flak can be 
provided so lethal that air attack can be held off sufficiently to maintain commu- 

Coningham apparently believed that his orders should come from Tedder 
rather than Spaatz. This was the view that Spaatz, who at the time of the evacua- 
tion had lost much of whatever control he ever had over Coningham, expressed 
to Eisenhowever on August 9.125 Tedder had taken over strategic direction and 
allocation for theater air power, thereby forcing Spaatz to concentrate primarily 
on purely American administrative matters. 

Spaatz 's papers contain no references at all to the Axis evacuation. Given 
his intense interest in the details of the operation against supply lines in Tunisia 
and in the bombing of Pantelleria, it seems reasonable to conclude that he had 
become detached from day-to-day operations, especially the tactical sphere of 
responsibility. Instead, during the time period of the evacuation he found time to 
campaign for air force independence with visiting senators and to inspect bomb 
groups in North Africa. In addition, he oversaw the AAF in the Mediterranean's 
first Combined Bomber Offensive mission — agamst fighter assembly plants in 
Wiener-Neustadt, Austria, on August 13 — and discussed plans for AAF reorga- 
nization and the coming invasion of Italy with Eisenhower and Tedder. 126 

In short, Spaatz had no hand in stopping the evacuation. There were indica- 
tions that if he had he would have, at the very least, used the U.S. heavy bombers 
more frequently on evacuation targets. On August 4, shortly before the evacua- 
tion, he said, in Eisenhower's presence, at a general officers' meeting, "It is my 
belief that it [air] should have been used exclusively in Sicily to expedite the 
battle there." In his diary Spaatz added, "Too much insistence exists in the mind 


Pantelleria and Sicily 

of Tedder that there be a differentiation between Tactical and Strategic Air 
Forces. Under certain battle conditions they should be considered as one Air 
Force and should be applied [together] as was done in the case of Pantelleria."l27 
Spaatz's remark on Tedder's mindset foimd an echo in the criticism of the 
air effort in official Royal Navy and U.S. Army histories. '28 Both point out 
shortcomings in Tedder's and Coningham's performances. The U.S. Army his- 
tory, in particular, takes Tedder to task for continuing to employ the heavy B-17 
and B-24 bombers of the NASAF too far from crucial evacuation ports. 
Coningham contributed by releasing the heavy bombers from interdiction 
responsibility on August 1 1 and by overestimating the effectiveness of his own 
tactical forces. If Spaatz had had more responsibility for this phase of the opera- 
tion, he might have been more flexible in his use of heavy bombardment, which 
in any case would not have been the panacea that U.S. Army historians implied 
it might have been, because the Germans evacuated over open beaches, targets 
much less suitable to heavy bombers than the local ports at each end of the 

During July and certainly by the beginning of August, Tedder supplanted 
Spaatz as Eisenhower's chief air adviser, although propinquity rather than ulte- 
rior purpose accounted for much of the change in Spaatz's status. By the nature 
of his job. Tedder stayed physically closer to Eisenhower and occupied a link in 
the chain of command between Spaatz and Eisenhower. As a result, Eisenhower, 
who based his entire command philosophy on Allied unity and teamwork, not 
only listened more often to Tedder, but went out of his way not to appear to seek 
Spaatz's views because they were American. Nor did Spaatz make Eisenhower's 
task easier. As Spaatz began to lose influence on Allied operations, he naturally 
began to concentrate more and more on a sphere over which he had greater con- 
trol — ^the administration and strategic policy of the AAF in the Mediterranean. 
Fortunately, Eisenhower, Tedder, and Spaatz liked and respected one another 
personally and professionally. This triangle, which could have produced emo- 
tional and institutional fireworks, eventually became a sound working relation- 
ship, with occasional tiffs and disagreements, instead of a Mycenaen epic with 
heroes sulking in their tents while the battle raged outside. 


Chapter 8 

Salerno and London 
(July-December 1943) 

It was very dark indeed on September 13, but thanks to a 
full effort by Air, enemy counterattacks were slowed up 
and finally on the 14th pretty much knocked in the head.' 

— Spaatz to Eaker, September 18, 1943 

The Invasion of Italy 

On July 26, the day after Mussolini fell from power, the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff (CCS) directed Eisenhower to proceed with the plans his command had 
drawn up for an invasion of Italy at Salerno, a city just south of Naples. The 
Allies chose Salerno chiefly because their relatively short-range fighter aircraft 
in Sicily could not operate effectively farther north. The Germans made the 
same calculations and marked the area as a likely invasion spot. They based a 
panzer division there, and a good road network enabled them to reinforce the 
area rapidly if the Allies did indeed arrive. 

After taking power, Mussolini's successors began secret peace negotiations 
with the Allies. Marshal Pietro Badoglio's government agreed to a secret 
armistice timed to coincide with the invasion. The Allies hoped that chaos 
within the Italian armed forces and in their relationship with their German part- 
ners resulting from the surprise cessation of hostilities would ease the way for the 
invading forces. Allied air power also sought to smooth the path. The Strategic 
Air Force, in particular, spent much of the five weeks prior to the invasion in 
counterair and supply and in the communications line interdiction strikes that had 
become standard. By the time of the invasion on September 9, the Luftwaffe and 
the Italian rail network had suffered severely. 

Once again the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) protected the inva- 
sion fleet effectively, despite a temporary resurgence of Luftwaffe activity. Only 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

five major Allied ships were sunk and nine were heavily damaged.2 When the 
German counterattack against the beachhead reached its peak on September 13 
and 14, the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) joined the North- 
west African Tactical Air Force (NATAF) in a maximum effort against German 
units, strong points, and communications on the front line or immediately behind 
it. Because all of the NAAF's striking forces were directly supporting the beach- 
head, Eisenhower requested the CCS to transfer three heavy-bomber groups from 
the Eighth Air Force to the NAAF. In addition, he asked the CCS to order the 
Eighth to bomb Northern Italian communications from England. The CCS 
promptly complied.3 In all, from September 12 to 15, the NAAF dropped 3,500 
tons of bombs and flew 6,000 sorties over the Italian battlefront.4 

Allied naval support forces also played an important part in repelling the 
counterattack. During the entire Salerno operation they pumped 11,000 tons of 
shells, the equivalent of 72,000 field artillery shells (105mm), into German posi- 
tions. 5 Given the advantage in accuracy of naval gunfire over bombing. Allied 
navies contributed somewhat more than Allied air in breaking up the German 
assault. Nonetheless, Eisenhower, Alexander, and Clark, Commander of the 
U.S. Fifth Army, which had operational control of the invasion, had nothing but 
praise for the air support given by the NAAF. Alexander wrote to Spaatz on 
September 17 that the air attacks had greatly aided the morale of the ground 
units and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. In addition, said Alexander, the 
air strikes "have seriously interfered with his movements, interrupted his com- 
munications and prevented his concentration of the necessary forces to launch 
large scale attacks. You have contributed immeasurably to the success of our 
operations.''^ Alexander also passed on Clark's "acclaim of the close and contin- 
uous air support given his army." And Eisenhower told Lt. Gen. Joseph T. 
McNamey, U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, on September 16, "I carmot say 
too much for our Air. . . . Our airmen hit what they are aiming at, and their 
effect in this campaign has been remarkable.''^ 

Following this activity the U.S. air effort in the Mediterranean began to fall 
off, mainly because of weather and manpower problems. The wet fall and winter 
of 1943-1944 caused the cancellation of many missions, which, of course, 
reduced the effect of air power on land operations and on the interdiction of 
enemy supplies and communications. Fine flying weather in the summer con- 
tributed to the shortage of manpower by allowing aircraft to undertake almost 
daily missions; as a result, air crews completed their fifty-mission combat rota- 
tion more quickly than anticipated.* The ability to fly almost incessantly also 

* The number of required combat missions for air crews varied throughout the war depending 
on theater, type of aircraft, and intensity of combat. In the summer of 1943, heavy-bomber crews in 
the Mediterranean, where enemy opposition was light, had to fly fifty missions before returning 
home. At the same time, heavy-bomber crews in Britain, who faced much heavier opposition (and 
hence had a shorter life expectancy), had a combat tour of twenty-five missions. 


Salerno and London 

led to increased fatigue among air and ground crews, causing more depletion of 
the human resources needed to conduct the air battle.^ The replacement situation 
had become severe even before the invasion of Italy. Spaatz reported to Arnold: 

As the extent to which air has assisted the ground action becomes more widely 
known increasing demands are made for its employment. We are faced with a 
rather difficult problem in this respect in that weather almost never interrupts 
flying and between 70% and 80% of our airplanes are kept in commission. 
Combat crew fatigue has become the main problem.' 

The following day Eisenhower sent, at Spaatz's behest, an "Eyes Only" 
cable to Marshall in which he pleaded for an immediate increase of the replace- 
ment rate from 15 percent per month to 25 percent per month. Eisenhower 
noted, "It now appears that we must either fail to meet demands or gradually 
reduce our groups' effectiveness as a result of attrition." Alluding to the surrender 
negotiations with Italy and the worsening Axis position on Sicily, Eisenhower 
added, "We have reached a critical position in this area which requires that any 
favorable development, military or political, be fully and immediately exploited. 
Air forces, of course, provide our most effective means of rapidly applying pres- 
siu"e where necessary."lo 

The Salerno operation only exacerbated the shortfall. At the height of the 
German counterattack, Spaatz wrote to Arnold: 

In addition to communications, the biggest worry at present is the old one of 
replacement crews. Our frequency of operation in spite of all efforts to hold it 
down to a minimum, is continuously greater than the replacement rate warrants, 
and crews are becoming war weary faster than replacements will arrive to 
relieve them." 

Eisenhower, too, pleaded with Marshall for more men: "Our actual use of air 
has greatly exceeded that which was plaimed. I consider that reducing the scale 
of our present air effort might prove disastrous." Eisenhower urged Marshall to 
take remedial action at once; otherwise "our strength will drop below that essen- 
tial for conduct of operations."l2 

Arnold and Marshall, however, could do little to meet these appeals. They 
temporarily sent down eighty B-24s (two groups) from the Eighth, but the 
vagaries of U.S. military manpower recruitment and procurement, especially in 
the AAF, had produced a manpower crisis that particularly affected air crews. 
The low point in the supply of trained manpower for the AAF occurred in the 
sunmier of 1943, leaving Arnold and the AAF unable to meet more than the 
minimal planned replacement flows. 13 

During this replacement crisis Spaatz confronted another delicate personnel 
problem — evaluating the performance of the pilots of the 99th Fighter Squadron, 
the only black AAF unit then in combat. In an "Eyes Only" cable on August 17, 
Spaatz alerted Arnold to a possible problem. General Cannon, Deputy Com- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

mander of the NATAF, reported that the 99th was "beginning to show evidence 
of tiring." Cannon compared the unit's perfonnance unfavorably to that of the 
33d Fighter Group, which was operating from the same airfield under the com- 
mand of Col. William W. Momyer, and noted, "It is indicated that the colored 
pilot cannot stand up under [the] same pressure as [the] white pilot." Cannon, 
however, noted the mitigating fact that although Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., 
the 99th' s commanding officer, reported that he had been promised four 
replacement pilots per month when he went into action in May 1943, he had 
received a total of only four replacements by mid-August. As Spaatz and 
Cannon well knew, a shortage of replacement pilots meant that a unit had to 
work overtime to maintain its sortie rate. The 99th, operating under added strain 
for a continued period, was worn out compared with white units with more 
replacements. Spaatz personally requested "that no conclusion be drawn until 
further study and experience."!^ 

Even as Spaatz wamed Arnold, Time magazine began to prepare a story on 
the 99th. Both apparently had gotten advance warning of the story, which 
appeared in the September 20, 1943, issue. The story accurately stated that 
"unofficial reports" from the Mediterranean suggested that "the top air com- 
mand was not altogether satisfied with the 99th's performance" and was think- 
ing about transferring the unit to the Northwest African Coastal Air Force 

On September 10, either in response to Spaatz's warning or to the impend- 
ing story in Time, Arnold requested the preparation of "as detailed a confidential 
report as the facts now in your possession warrant" on black pilots without delay. 
Arnold further noted, "We have received from many unofficial sources second 
hand tales of the fact that the Negro pilot tires very easily, and that he loses his 
will to fight after five or six missions." Arnold knew that Spaatz would realize 
"the urgency required for this information in view of the fact that we contemplate 
building additional Negro units at once."16 

As ordered, Spaatz directed Cannon, despite his involvement in the fighting 
associated with the Salerno invasion, to expedite the completion of a compre- 
hensive report on the 99th. On September 18, Cannon replied by forwarding a 
report prepared by the Commanding General, Xll ASC, Maj. Gen. Edwin J. 
House. Citing an unnamed officer 18 "who has been in the best position to 
observe carefully the work of the 99th squadron over its entire combat period," 
House severely censured the 99th's performance. Although the unnamed officer 
noted that the 99th' s "ground discipline and ability to accomplish and execute 
orders promptly are excellent," he concluded: 

Based on the performance of the 99th Fighter Squadron to date, it is my opin- 
ion that they are not of the fighting caliber of any squadron in this group. They 
have failed to display the aggressiveness and desire for combat that are neces- 
sary to a first class fighting organization. It may be expected that we will get 
less work and less operational time out of the 99th Fighter Squadron than any 
squadron of this group. 


Salerno and London 

House added his own observations. He recommended that the squadron be 
reequipped with obsolescent P-39s and reassigned from the XII ASC to the less 
active NACAF. He also remarked: 

On many discussions held with officers of all professions, including medical, 
the consensus of opinion seems to be that the Negro type has not the proper 
reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot. Also, on rapid moves which must be 
part of this Command, housing and messing difTiculties arise because the time 
has not yet arrived when the white and colored soldiers wiU mess at the same 
table and sleep in the same barracks. 

Finally, House suggested, "If and when a colored group is formed in the United 
States, it be retained for either the eastern or western defense zone and a white 
fighter group be released for overseas movement."l9 

In his endorsement of the report to Spaatz, Caimon wrote, "The pilots of the 
99th Fighter Squadron fall well below the standard of pilots of other fighter 
squadrons of this Command," in categories such as eagerness for combat, 
aggressiveness, will to win or reach the objective, stamina, and ability to fight as 
a team. Black pilots had "no outstanding characteristics in which they excel in 
war over the pilots of other squadrons of this Command."20 

The report contradicted what Spaatz had recorded in early June 1943, that 
Colonel Davis had told him the "men have lost a little of the eagerness they had 
before any combat missions, but are proving themselves. "21 In any case, Spaatz 
forwarded the report to Arnold, expressing his "fiill confidence in the fairness of 
the analysis" made by Cannon and House, observing: "I feel that no squadron 
has been introduced into this theater with a better background of training than 
had by the 99th Fighter Squadron."22 

The report came to the attention of the McCloy Committee, a special com- 
mittee established by the War Department to oversee black troop policies. On 
October 16, Colonel Davis testified before the committee and effectively refuted 
House's and Momyer's criticisms.23 The 99th remained in combat in Italy and 
was eventually joined by the all-black 332d Fighter Group. 

At the very least, the foregoing report demonstrated the inability of the 
Army hierarchy to conduct an objective evaluation of black soldiers in the U.S. 
Army of World War II. The incident may have affected Spaatz's evaluation of 
them. After the war he told the Gillem Board, which was investigating the possi- 
ble future roles of black soldiers in the AAF, that they should not serve in inte- 
grated units and that they would be more effective in support and service units 
than in combat units.24 

Throughout World War II, the War Department specified a policy of strict 
segregation requiring separate but equal accommodations, training, and treat- 
ment. Spaatz, accordingly, did not brook egregious discrimination. In the 
autumn of 1943, he became aware that AAF rest facilities on the Island of Capri, 
in the harbor of Naples, were not admitting black officers. He had the situation 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

rectified.25 The AAF built a separate rest facility on Capri for black AAF com- 
bat officers (the approximately thirty black pilots assigned to the 99th). Not until 
May 1944 did the AAF in the Mediterranean begin construction of a rest camp 
for the enlisted personnel of the 99th or for black officers and enlisted men 
assigned to AAF service organizations.26 

The Mediterranean Theater and Strategic Bombing 

Once it had defeated the Nazi counterattack on the Salemo beachhead, the U.S. 
Fifth Army captured Naples on October 1. On the same day, the British 8th Army, 
advancing from the toe of Italy, occupied the great airfield complex of Foggia, eighty 
miles to the northeast of Naples. The capture of Foggia gave the AAF the aq)ability 
to open up a second front in the Combined Bomber Offensive against Germany by 
putting it well within range of Austrian and south German industrial targets. 

This new aspect of the air war had been part of the AAF's plans since the 
promulgation of AWPD/1 in September 1941. AWPD/1 had provided for a 
bomber force of very long-range B-29s (still on the drawing boards in 1941) 
operating against Germany from bases in the Suez region. Similarly, at the 
inception of the North African invasion, Arnold and Spaatz had persuaded 
Eisenhower as the European Theater Commander to agree tentatively to a single 
air force for Britain and North Africa, which would allow the strategic bombing 
of Germany from both areas. 

At the end of the Tunisian campaign, Eisenhower forwarded to Marshall a 
suggestion from Spaatz that "this theater would offer a very fine region from 
which to use some of the new B29s."27 Eisenhower also sent the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff his recommendations on the course of action to follow after the 
fall of Sicily. To this document (CCS No. 223) Tedder added a statement in 
which he pointed out the advantages of launching strategic bomber missions 
from Italy. These feelers went unnoticed by Marshall and the rest of the Combined 
Chiefs, who met in Washington, D.C., from May 12 to 25, 1943. There they 
accepted Baker's plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive (CCS No. 217), 
which called for a rapid buildup of an Eighth Air Force powerful enough to 
defeat Luftwaffe fighter forces and bomb key German industries.28 

At Arnold's insistence, however, the Combined Chiefs authorized a one- 
time-only, low-level B-24 raid against the Romanian oil fields and refinery com- 
plex at Ploesti, provided Eisenhower approved, which he did in early June. In 
addition to two B-24 groups (the 376th and 98th) from the Ninth Air Force, the 
CCS diverted one group (the 389th) scheduled to reinforce the Eighth and two 
of the Eighth's own groups (the 93d and 44th) to the Ploesti raid (code-named 
Tidalwave). These 177 bombers launched the first Mediterranean raid to partic- 
ipate in the Combined Bomber Offensive by attacking the Ploesti oil targets on 
August 1. They lost 54 aircraft and 532 crewmen and inflicted heavy, but not 
decisive, damage to their targets.29 


Salerno and London 

Before flying the Ploesti raid, these groups joined the NAAF and flew sev- 
eral hundred sorties in the SiciUan campaign. They also participated in two other 
strategic missions before leaving the theater, one before and one after the Ploesti 
raid. On July 19, with the medium bombers and B-17s of the Twelfth Air Force 
(more than 500 planes in all), they also bombed airfields near and two railroad 
marshaling yards in Rome. They damaged the fields and the rail yards severely, 
but one bomb landed a thousand feet from one of the yards in the nave of the 
Basilica of San Lorenzo where it caved in the roof and front facade, destroying 
thirteenth- and fourteenth-century frescos and mosaics.30 Reported casualties 
were 700 killed and 1,600 wounded.^l 

This raid in the classical terms of Douhet, the Italian air theorist, was aimed 
against the will of a nation. Few other single strokes could have produced the 
blow to national pride and spirit or so forcefully demonstrated the failings of 
Mussolini's ramshackle Fascist state to the Italian people than this raid. On 
August 13, 259 heavy and medium bombers returned to Rome's marshaling 
yards and inflicted heavy damage, closing the line to Naples for five or six days 
and killing 221 persons and wounding 565 more. The next day, the Italian gov- 
enmient declared Rome an open city.32 

Spaatz and the NAAF had planned the initial raid many weeks before its 
execution. On June 1, Spaatz discussed the prospects of bombing Rome with 
Churchill, Marshall, and Alan Brooke, British Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff, who had come to the Mediterranean to obtain Eisenhower's views on post- 
Sicilian operations. In his description of the Prime Minister's visit, Eisenhower 
related that "long discussions were carried on regarding the desirability of 
bombing the marshalling yards near Rome." The CCS authorized the raid on 
June 15.33 In addition, Spaatz emphasized the necessity of capturing northern 
Italy for use in air operations against Germany.34 

Two weeks later Spaatz and Tedder, while plarming support operations for 
the upcoming Sicilian assault, decided to interdict rail yards in both Naples and 
Rome as part of the overall campaign to disrupt supply and communications in 
Italy. Spaatz suggested that Naples should receive not only bombs but surrender 
leaflets as well.35 He did not make clear whether he thought the latter might ren- 
der the port susceptible to a coup de main or prove effective as a psychological 
ploy in the war against Italian morale. Spaatz may have felt that a hard double 
blow at those two key cities might undermine Italian morale and weaken opposi- 
tion to the invasion. He noted that if air power could not be concentrated against 
those two targets, the entire effort should fall on Sicily itself. In private, Spaatz 
had earlier expressed great faith in the psychological impact of bombing. On 
May 8, he wrote to a friend in Washington, D.C., that, in the B-17, the United 
States had discovered the principal weapon for concluding the war successfully. 
"We have ample evidence," remarked Spaatz, "to clearly indicate they can blast 
their way through any defenses and destroy the will to fight in any nation which 
may oppose us."36 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Nine days after the Sicilian landings the AAF struck Rome in a raid that 
showed precision bombing at its best and helped to topple Mussolini's regime 
six days later." Naturally, Spaatz sent a special report to Arnold: 

It [the raid] should prove of particular interest to our air force supporters, but 
definitely has very little interest from an air force standpoint. It was too easy. 
Seven other raids are now under study and of these the one on NAPLES is cer- 
tain to hit them in the eyes, especially the "Sunday-morning quarterbacks."'* 

Arnold and Spaatz usually tried to stay a step ahead of any critics of air power. 

Shortly before their return to England, the Eighth's three groups, joined by 
the Ninth's two groups, executed a strategic mission against German fighter 
plants at Wiener Neustadt, Austria. On August 13, the groups left their bases 
around Benghazi, Tripoli, and flew more than 1,200 miles to their target. They 
achieved complete tactical surprise and inflicted severe damage on hangars and 
grounded aircraft and on the fighter construction and assembly plants of Wiener- 
Neustaedter Flugzeugwerke A.G.; for much of the remainder of the year, pro- 
duction at the plants slowed noticeably.39 This was the first time that Allied 
bombers based in the Mediterranean had attacked a target in Greater Germany. 

The attacks on Rome, Ploesti, and Wiener Neustadt strengthened Spaatz's 
conviction that bombers based in his command should participate in raids on 
Germany. A week after the Wiener Neustadt raid Spaatz wrote to Lovett, "I am 
increasingly convinced that Germany can be forced to her knees by aerial bom- 
bardment alone. The process can be accelerated by us if suitable bases are avail- 
able in the Mediterranean area as well as those now available in England. "40 
This statement reflected views that Spaatz had expressed for months. On June 
24, he had written to Arnold that the fate of the air forces after the next two 
operations (Sicily and Salerno) concerned him greatly. He also believed that the 
heavy-bomber effort against Germany ought to come from more than just one 
base area: "If we can establish ourselves in Italy, much of Germany can be 
reached from there with better weather conditions at our airdromes than prevail 
normally in England. This would immediately, when applied, force a dispersion 
of the German fighter and anti-aircraft defenses."4i Spaatz suggested that the 
necessary heavy-bomber force could be obtained by converting his existing 
B-25 and B-26 groups to B-17 groups. The excess medium bombers could then 
go to the French. 

After talks with Doolittle, Spaatz reiterated most of his foregoing sugges- 
tions in a July 14 letter to Arnold. Spaatz did modify the proposal slightly by 
observing that not all of his medium-bomber groups could convert because 
ground support missions required aircraft with the medium bombers' operating 
characteristics. Again he pointed out the advantages of strategic bombing from 

I am confident we will progress up the Italian Peninsula, and before too many 
weeks have passed, will be in a position to bomb the fighter production plants 


Salerno and London 

in the vicinity of Vienna and other places now beyond the effort out of U.K. I 
believe points we can reach amount to 97% of their production.''^ 

Arnold held different views. In late July, he told a member of the RAF 
Delegation in Washington that the fall of Sicily and potential fall of Italy did lit- 
tle for the Allies against Germany. Because the bombing offensive against 
Germany must come from Britain, the three B-24 groups on loan to Spaatz 
should be returned immediately. The best way to finish the war was to attack by 
the shortest way — across the channel. Arnold regarded Eisenhower's call for 
reinforcements in the Mediterranean as an extravagance that could compromise 
the cross-channel invasion.43 When the RAF Delegation reported these opinions 
to Portal, he instructed his mission in Washington to present the RAF's case for 
strategic bombing from Italy, especially from the central (Rome) and north (Po 
Valley) Italian areas. Portal, like Spaatz, pointed to the advantages of spreading 
German fighter defenses and placing more vital targets within easy range. He 
believed that without question the Allies should create in Italy the largest 
bomber force that a logistical base could support. He accepted the fact that the 
limiting element of logistics would mean a smaller total force in Italy than the 
one stationed in Britain.44 

Air Marshal William Welsh, the head of the RAF Delegation, discussed 
Portal's ideas with Arnold on August 1 and reported considerable modification 
of Arnold's views. Arnold agreed completely on the need for a bomber force 
flying from northern Italy. A decisive factor in changing Arnold's mind may 
have been British intelligence indicating significant dispersal of German fighter 
assembly and manufacturing capacity to Austria and other southern European 
targets beyond the range of the Eighth Air Force's heavy bombers.45 But Arnold 
added a new wrinkle. He suggested that the Allied bomber offensive required a 
single overall commander to coordinate the strategic bombing forces in both 
Italy and Britain in order to avoid competition, overlarge liaison staffs, and con- 
stant appeals to the Combined Chiefs of Staff for decisions. Welsh warned 
Portal that Arnold would bring up the matter of command when they next met.46 

In the meantime, AAF Headquarters rejected Spaatz's proposals to reequip 
his medium-bomber groups because it wished neither to delay the B- 17 buildup 
in Britain nor to deprive Eisenhower of support.47 Similarly, the CCS rejected 
Eisenhower's request for a loan of four of the Eighth's B-17 groups for the 
Salerno operation. Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, U.S. European Theater Com- 
mander, and Eaker, the Eighth Air Force Commander, strongly supported the 
turndown because they feared that such a transfer would wreck the current 
Combined Bomber Offensive.48 Marshall also refused to transfer four medium- 
bomber groups from Britain, and Arnold rejected the request by Eisenhower, 
Spaatz, and Tedder to keep the Eighth's three B-24 groups that had bombed 
Ploesti in the Mediterranean theater.49 On September 2, Arnold informed Spaatz 
that he would receive no more P-38 replacement aircraft for six weeks.50 These 
actions enraged Eisenhower,5l but Marshall and Arnold pointed out that the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

NAAF already outnumbered the entire Luftwaffe and that the needs of 
PoiNTBLANK* — ^thc U.S. daylight precision bombing portion of the Combined 
Bomber Offensive against Germany that was a prerequisite to the cross-channel 
invasion — overrode all other considerations.52 

If Eisenhower and Spaatz had lost their campaign to acquire some of 
Baker's assets, at least they had helped to gain recognition of the point that Italy 
would serve as an admirable base for future attacks on Germany. At the Quebec 
Conference, August 14 to 25, 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Combined 
Chiefs agreed on "strategic bombing operations from Italian and Central 
European bases, complementing Pointblank."53 The British Chief of the Air 
Staff, Portal, remarked, "If we could have a strong force of Heavy and Medium 
Bombers there [northern Italy] in the near future, Germany would be faced with 
a problem insoluble."54 Amold, in the midst of the conference, wrote to Spaatz 
that "a planned and sustained strategic bombing attack on German key industrial 
targets from Mediterranean bases" warranted the top priority.55 

Two days after the conference, Amold requested Spaatz to retum to Wash- 
ington for ten days to two weeks. With Eisenhower's approval, Spaatz scheduled a 
trip to Washington for the beginning of October. He told Eisenhower that he 
would emphasize the replacement crew problem and the "utilization of the 
Mediterranean base area for heavy bombers including B-29s."56 

Once the CCS had accepted Italy as a base for strategic bombing, details of 
command, control, strength, and coordination with the Eighth Air Force needed 
attention. Eisenhower signaled Marshall on September 19, "Forward movement 
into Italy necessitates immediate planning on my part for extension of bomber 
effort into Germany." He went on to inquire about the exact number of aircraft 
to be sent and, after stating his own and Spaatz's belief in the effectiveness of 
that aspect of the Combined Bomber Offensive conducted from Italy, informed 
Marshall that Spaatz would arrive in Washington prepared to discuss numbers 
and "the overall organization and control of strategic air forces as Tedder, 
Spaatz, and I see it."57 

By October Amold and his staff had drawn up plans for a new strategic air 
force — the Fifteenth Air Force. On October 9, the day Spaatz landed in 
Washington, Amold submitted to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) his design 
for turning the Twelfth Air Force into a tactical air force and establishing the 
Fifteenth as a strategic air force. Both forces would operate under the theater 
commander, but the Fifteenth would occasionally receive directives from the 
CCS for employment in the Combined Bomber Offensive. The Fifteenth would 
receive the Twelfth's six heavy groups and fifteen more from the continental 
United States. 

* Pointblank's first objective was to destroy the Gennan daylight fighter forces, after which it 
would attack the German ^rcraft industry, the ball-bearing industry, and other high-value economic 


Salerno and London 

Eaker and Devers objected vigorously, arguing that the plan diverted forces 
from Britain and sacrificed the principle of concentration of force, thereby jeop- 
ardizing Pointblank and Overlord. The JCS, after discussions with Bedell 
Smith and Spaatz, approved Arnold's plan. The JCS then submitted the matter to 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff, who had overall control of the Combined Bomber 
Offensive. The CCS agreed with a proviso inserted by the British that if logisti- 
cal problems prevented the stationing of heavy-bomber groups in the Mediter- 
ranean, then the excess bombers would go to Britain.58 The CCS directed 
Eisenhower to employ the Fifteenth Air Force against strategic targets. They 
allowed him to use units of the Fifteenth that had been reassigned from the 
Twelfth Air Force (six heavy-bomber groups, and two long-range fighter groups) 
primarily against political targets in the Balkans and in support of the land forces 
in Italy rather than against Pointblank objectives, until the land forces secured air 
bases north and east of Rome.59 

Spaatz, who had returned to La Marsa on October 22, the same day the CCS 
approved the formation of the Fifteenth, quickly assured Arnold on the logistical 
capabilities of southern Italy. Spaatz immediately obtained an authoritative state- 
ment on logistics from a West Point classmate, Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, the 
crusty Commanding General, Army Services of Supply. Somervell, the Army's 
chief logistics and supply officer with a status virtually equal to Arnold's, had 
visited the Italian theater and Spaatz at the end of October. Armed with Somer- 
vell's estimate and the results of a recent inspection of Foggia and its supply line 
back to Taranto, Spaatz sent out a telegram, over Eisenhower's signature, mini- 
mizing supply difficulties. Eisenhower appended a staff report from Bedell 
Smith which indicated somewhat more soberly that Italy could support the 
planned influx of bombers and escorts. Smith's report gave Arnold the ammuni- 
tion he needed to refuse to discuss the issue when the British again questioned 
the capability of Italy to support additional strategic groups.60 

For their part the British had come to question not the eventual need for the 
Fifteenth, whose existence they had already approved, but the timing of its 
increase. Portal had always favored strategic attacks from Italy because he 
assumed that the central and northern portions of the peninsula would be avail- 
able for bases. Hitler's decision to defend Italy south of Rome and Field Marshal 
Kesselring's successful execution of that policy upset his calculations, however, 
and he began to question the effectiveness of basing bombers at the Foggia 
fields in the south.^l In London, Eaker took issue with the rate of the Fifteenth's 
bomber and fighter group buildup specified in Eisenhower's instructions. He 
privately protested to the British that the nine heavy-bomber groups scheduled 
to go to Italy in November, December, and January should come to Britain, even 
if Italy could support them logistically.62 

On October 26, the British Chiefs of Staff, reflecting Portal's and Baker's 
positions, suggested to the CCS in Washington that the fifteen heavy-bombard- 
ment groups scheduled for Italy be redirected to their original destination — 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Britain. They further asked that the six heavy-bombardment groups already in 
Italy be assigned primarily to Pointblank even before the fall of Rome.63 
Churchill seconded these suggestions. He instructed Portal not to allow the 
strategic buildup to interfere with the battle for Rome but to give the armies and 
their tactical air support first priority. Churchill emphasized that the goal from 
the British must be "saturation" or overwhelming strength for the American day- 
light attacks.64 

When the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington presented that position 

to the CCS, the Americans brushed it aside. At the October 29 meeting, Arnold, 
referring repeatedly to assurances given him by Spaatz, said that the buildup of 
the Fifteenth did not interfere with the strengthening of Eisenhower's tactical air 
or ground forces. Arnold maintained that bombers in Italy would be more effec- 
tive than those in Britain and renewed his promise to send to Britain all the 
groups that the Fifteenth could not supply or operate effectively. Marshall 
reminded the British that Eisenhower himself had called for a strategic air force 
in Italy, in part to have those forces at his disposal in case of a ground emer- 
gency, during which he could decide relative priorities. With the losses during 
the Schweinfurt mission of October 14 in mind, Marshall observed that strategic 
forces in Italy would help reduce "very heavy casualties" incurred in daylight 
bombing over northwest Europe.65 Having already accepted the creation of an 
additional U.S. strategic air force, the British could hardly continue to object to 
the way the Americans divided their own assets, especially in light of assurances 
that Pointblank remained the prime objective and that the Americans could 
supply their own forces. 

The creation of the Fifteenth Air Force, whose headquarters would serve as 
the hub of the strategic bombing campaign based in Italy, naturally consumed 
much of Spaatz's ten-day sojourn in Washington. In addition to the always vex- 
atious problem of replacements, Spaatz and Arnold probably discussed arrange- 
ments for the overall control of strategic air forces in Europe — a complex prob- 
lem of great concern not only to the AAF and the RAF but to the theater com- 
manders and the Combined Chiefs as well. 

The theater commanders, Eisenhower in Italy and Devers in Britain, wanted 
total authority over all air forces in their commands. Had this authority been 
allowed, the coordination of strategic bombing against Germany would have 
been hamstrung, especially if both the Mediterranean and the European Theaters 
of Operation possessed competing strategic forces. The CCS, charged with the 
overall strategic direction of the war, also had a stake in the problem. They had 
decided at the conferences in Washington in May 1943 and in Quebec in August 
1943 that the successful invasion of the Continent required a successful strategic 
bombing campaign. The first objective of such a campaign would be to so dam- 
age the Luftwaffe that it could not contest Allied air supremacy over the inva- 
sion area. Competing with the requirements for strategic bombing in the eyes of 
the CCS were the equally valid claims of the invasion conmianders and ground 


Salerno and London 

troops for tactical support of preinvasion preparations, the landings, and post 
invasion operations. 

The AAF and the RAF had separate agendas on the issue of command and 
control. Arnold and the AAF wanted a single Allied Strategic Air Force 
Commander in charge of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces and Bomber 
Command, with headquarters in London and a status equal — ^presumably with 
four-star rank — ^to that of the European and Mediterranean theater commanders. 
This idea, if approved, would in a stroke make the AAF's and the RAF's strate- 
gic air forces independent of the ground forces' leaders and allow untrammeled 
pursuit of the strategic bomber campaign against Germany — ^the raison d'etre of 
both air forces. In addition, the airman who held the post would emerge with a 
prestige that at least matched that of the war's other theater commanders, such 
as Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz. Arnold 
probably assumed that the commander would be a member of the AAF, princi- 
pal supplier of aircraft. Even if an RAF officer got the job, Arnold would still 
have taken a large step toward eventual postwar autonomy for the AAF. 

Next, Arnold wanted a U.S. Strategic Air Force Commander in Europe (also 
based in London) who would take operational control of both U.S. strategic air 
forces (the Eighth and Fifteenth) and administrative control of the U.S. air forces 
in Britain (the Eighth and Ninth). The AAF would thus acquire control over all 
of its heavy bombers directed toward Germany. Without such a headquarters, 
the two strategic air forces, each under a separate theater commander, might 
well fail to coordinate their efforts adequately. Such a command would also be 
at least equal to Bomber Command in prestige and stature and would certainly 
exceed it in numbers of heavy bombers. Because this headquarters would be in 
London, it could still take advantage of British intelligence and cooperate with 
Bomber Command — a unit already headed by an officer with the equivalent of 
four-star rank. His U.S. opposite number would probably have the same rank, 
which would reflect well on the AAF. By giving the U.S. Strategic Commander 
administrative control of the Ninth (Tactical) Air Force, which was slated to 
provide tactical air support for the cross-channel invasion, Arnold may have 
hoped to influence what promised to be the major U.S. land campaign of the war 
and to augment the power and prestige of the head of the U.S. Strategic Bomber 

Although Arnold's plan stemmed from both his proposal for a combined 

bomber command in the summer of 1942 and his and Spaatz's advocacy of a 
single theater air force in the fall of 1942, his campaign for the acceptance of a 
new strategic command began no later than August 1, 1943, when he informed 
the head of the RAF Delegation in Washington, Air Marshal Welsh, of his idea 
for an overall commander.67 Arnold continued to explore the idea during a trip 
to visit Britain and Eaker in September 1943. After spending three days inspect- 
ing the Eighth, Arnold visited Air Chief Marshal Harris at Bomber Command on 
September 5. That evening he and Harris discussed the subject of a combined 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

command "in generalities." Arnold favored the plan because it allowed more 
efficient use of aircraft. Harris objected chiefly, as Arnold noted in his trip jour- 
nal, because the British would then lose control of the bomber offensive. Harris, 
who operated with virtual autonomy from the RAF staff, could hardly be 
expected to accept an American superior when he had already freed himself 
from a British one.68 Arnold also discussed his plan with Portal,69 who probably 
indicated that he found it impractical. 

By early October, Arnold had carried his ideas to Harry Hopkins, Franklin 
Roosevelt's alter ego, who endorsed them and presented them to the President.70 a 
month later, Marshall, who by and large supported Amold's position, advised him 
not to press the question until after the settlement of the more important questions of 
a unified Mediterranean command proposed by the British and the appointment of a 
single supreme commander for all U.S.-British forces fighting against the Germans.^l 

Nevertheless, Arnold persevered in his advocacy of new command arrange- 
ments. When the President made the first leg of his trip to the initial Big Three 
meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Tehran, Iran, in November 1943, he sailed 
on the brand-new U.S. battleship Iowa. The U.S. Chiefs traveled with him and 
added the finishing touches to their presentations and plans for the Cairo 
Conference with Churchill and Chinese leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, 
November 22-26, and the Tehran Conference, November 28 to December 1. 
During the voyage Arnold succeeded in gaining the backing of his fellow chiefs 
and the President for his command scheme. In a JCS memo for the President 
dated November 17, 1943, the JCS stated that from the military point of view 
the operation of the British and American strategic bombers required unity of 
command. The memo, which offered different proposals depending on how the 
British reacted to the American push for a supreme Allied commander in 
Europe, specified a single bomber command whether the British agreed to an 
overall supreme commander or not.72 

The next day Arnold obtained the American Chiefs' agreement for the for- 
mation of a new U.S. headquarters to command and control all U.S. strategic 
bomber forces in Europe. The U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSTAF) 
would command both the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces from London, where it 
could coordinate action with British Bomber Command. The theater comman- 
ders retained the right, upon notification of the Commanding General, USSTAF, 
to deploy bombers in the event of a tactical or strategic emergency. The JCS 
also agreed to Amold's suggestion for a commanding general, Carl A. Spaatz. 
His name went forward to the President with the rest of the package.''^ Amold 
chose Spaatz to head USSTAF for both professional and personal reasons. 
Spaatz had the seniority required for the post; he had the confidence of Portal, 
Tedder, and other high-ranking RAF officers; he possessed experience in con- 
ducting strategic bombing operations under wartime conditions; he had demon- 
strated his ability to function smoothly and effectively in theater-level Anglo- 
American operations; and he was personally loyal to Amold, supporting his 


Salerno and London 

beliefs as to the wartime and future roles of the AAF. 

The RAF diametrically opposed Arnold's proposals. It wished, for the most 
part, to maintain the status quo, which best served its interests. The RAF Chief 
of Staff, Portal, had received from the Combined Chiefs of Staff the task of 
coordinating the Eighth Air Force and British Bomber Command effort from 
Britain. On paper and subject to concurrence by the AAF, therefore, the British 
were in charge of the Combined Bomber Offensive, and Bomber Command 
remained an independent part of the offensive. This maintenance of Bomber 
Command's role was important, because the balance of heavy-bomber strength, 
heretofore in favor of the British, would swing dramatically in favor of the 
Americans during 1944. The British objected, too, that a new command would 
disrupt the excellent relations between the Eighth Air Force and the RAF, create 
a new unnecessary headquarters staff, and move the responsibility for coordina- 
tion to Washington from London, which already had intelligence and communi- 
cations personnel trained and ready to work. As for the Fifteenth Air Force, the 
British asserted that tight, direct coordination between that force and the forces 
in Britain would be impossible to attain and that shuttle bombing when, for 
example, British-based bombers striking a target in southern Germany continued 
on to land in Italy rather than on their home base, was not practical because 
bombers rapidly lost effectiveness when away from their own dedicated ground 
maintenance and supply echelons .^4 

On November 20, the Iowa docked in Oran, where Eisenhower met Roose- 
velt at the quay and flew with him to Tunis. The following day Roosevelt and 
Hopkins went sightseeing; the President went to selected Tunisian battlefields 
with Eisenhower; Hopkins went to Spaatz's headquarters. Roosevelt and 
Hopkins used their visits to evaluate the two generals with an eye to future reas- 
signment. Hopkins questioned Spaatz closely about his views concerning the 
entire war strategy in Europe and about the feasibility of assisting the Soviets in 
their advance westward. Spaatz cited the Ploesti oil refineries and Balkan targets 
of a "psychological" nature, such as rail centers and depots, but noted that con- 
tinued destruction of fighter and mimitions factories in Germany would advance 
the Soviet cause as much as any other targets.75 

Next, Hopkins asked Spaatz for his views on the Combined Bomber Offensive 
and its relationship to the cross-channel invasion and to operations in the 
Mediterranean. Spaatz replied boldly that once the weather cleared over 
Germany in April and May, thus allowing continuous operations from Britain 
and Italy, Germany would give up in three months. Overlord, Spaatz thought, 
was neither necessary nor desirable. From the point of view of air power, further 
gains in Italy would bring the bombers closer to Germany and represented a bet- 
ter investment in men and materiel than the cross-channel invasion. 

Hopkins was impressed but imconvinced.''^ He belonged to the Marshall/War 
Department Operations Planning Division school of strategy, which upheld the 
primacy of the Overlord cross-channel invasion over all other operations. But 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

apparently Spaatz 's personality, sincere advocacy of air power, and determina- 
tion to get the job done at any cost must have persuaded Hopkins that Arnold 
had been wise in championing him for the command of the strategic air forces in 

Once the chiefs of state and their military leaders assembled in Cairo on 
November 23, Arnold's proposals encountered stiff opposition from the British. 
Although Marshall and Roosevelt, on separate occasions, brought up the issue of 
an overall Allied strategic air force with Churchill, they could not overcome 
British resistance. To Roosevelt's observation that "our strategic air forces from 
London to Ankara should be under one command," Churchill replied that a deci- 
sion on the matter could be deferred until after Overlord— and that the current 
system worked well enough.''^ The dispute was not resolved until after the 
Tehran Conference, which dealt mainly with inter-Allied relations and assur- 
ances to the Soviets of American and British intentions to open a second front 
against Germany in the spring of 1944. 

At the Second Cairo Conference, December 3-7, the Americans and the 
British settled their chief outstanding differences concerning strategy, strategic 
priorities, and operations. On December 6, Roosevelt announced his decision to 
appoint Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, Alhed Expeditionary 
Force (SCAEF), from which position he would direct the invasion of France. 
Marshall, who had wanted the command and had many reasons to think he 
would get it, was disappointed. He was to continue as Army Chief of Staff. The 
President told him, "I could not sleep at night with you out of the country ."''^ It 
was the most important personnel decision of the war; Eisenhower achieved 
greamess in his new role as commander of the cross-channel invasion, while 
Marshall continued to perform admirably his taxing and equally important chores 
in Washington. 

At the Second Cairo Conference, the Americans abandoned their quest for 
an Allied Strategic Air Force and a supreme commander. The Allies did agree to 
institute the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSTAF). The British declined 
to interfere in what they regarded as an unwise, but purely American, decision.^^ 

USSTAF would establish its headquarters m London and employ its strength 
primarily against Pointblank targets in accordance with directives issued by the 
CCS. In so doing it would continue to coordinate activities with RAF Bomber 
Command and ensure that in assignment of supplies and services between tacti- 
cal and strategic operations Pointblank had first priority. Amold as Commanding 
General, U.S. Army Air Forces, would continue to have direct channels to the 
Commander, U.S. Strategic Air Forces "on matters of technical control, opera- 
tional and training techniques, and uniformity of tactical doctrine." The imple- 
menting directive to the American theater commanders and Commanding 
General, Strategic Air Forces, stated that the Strategic Air Forces would continue 
under the direction of the Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, as agent for the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff, until coming directly under the control of the Supreme Allied 


Salerno and London 

Commander (for Overlord only) "at a date to be announced later" by the CCS. 
Should a tactical emergency arise, the theater commanders could employ the 
strategic forces upon notification of the CCS and Commanding General, Strategic 
Air Forces.80 Before accepting this directive the British Chiefs stipulated that 
Arnold should consult Eisenhower, Tedder, and General James Maitland Wilson, 
British Commander in Chief, Middle East, and Eisenhower's replacement as 
Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean. 81 

Also at the Second Cairo Conference, during a meeting of the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff on December 4, Arnold left no doubt in Portal's or his other lis- 
teners' minds about his unfavorable view of Eaker's efforts as commander of the 
Eighth Air Force. He complained of a "lack of flexibility in operations" despite 
numerous inspections and reports; a 50 percent aircraft availability rate* (in an 
industrialized country) as opposed to 60 to 70 percent in other (more primitive) 
theaters; and the dispatch of only one 600-aircraft operation in the whole month 
of November. He said, "The failure to destroy targets was due directly to the 
failure to employ planes in sufficient numbers. A sufficient weight of bombs 
was not being dropped on the targets to destroy them, nor was the proper prior- 
ity of targets being followed."82 

Arnold found that failure intolerable. The hostile tone in his memoirs 
describing his September inspection of the Eighth revealed a growing disen- 
chantment with Eaker's progress. He was very angry, for example, as he listened 
to radio reports during his flight to England of B-17s running out of fuel on the 
ferry route through Gander, Newfoundland, and Prestwick. Arnold had worked 
himself into a heart attack to get planes for the AAF and in Eaker's command 
they, with their needed crews, were lost before ever reaching combat. "I was not 
satisfied," he remarked.83 Also, while Arnold stayed in England, the Eighth suf- 
fered the misfortune of a large raid's misfiring over Stuttgart. Not a single one 
of 338 B-17s sent out reached its primary target. Arnold noted darkly, "Certain 
features of the operation never did find their way into reports sent up through 
channels."84 On December 2, 1943, Arnold had a talk with his staff — Kuter, 
Vandenberg, and Hansell. He expressed to them the same dissatisfaction he 
would show two days later to the Combined Chiefs.85 

On December 7, Arnold met Wilson for the first time and lunched with 
Tedder. He discussed the new air arrangements with both and found that neither 
objected to them.86 On December 8, he flew to Sicily where he met the Presi- 
dent, Eisenhower, Bedell Smith, and Spaatz, all of whom had traveled on the 
same C-54 aircraft from North Africa to Sicily .87 Arnold consulted first with 
Eisenhower and Bedell Smith, who approved of his choice of Spaatz to com- 
mand the Strategic Air Force.88 Even though they were still puzzled as to the 

* The availability rate is the number of aircraft and crews officially listed in the theater or unit 
divided by the number of aircraft and crews actually available for combat. A 50 percent rate meant 
that Eaker had only half of the number of his planes ready to fight. 


Spaatz and the Am War in Europe 

exact task and position within the command hierarchy of the strategic air com- 
mander, both Bedell Smith and Eisenhower preferred to have a known and 
friendly quantity, such as Spaatz, in the job rather than a stranger who might not 
appreciate the needs of the ground commanders. In his trip notebook Arnold 
noted, "Both agree Spaatz was the man for the job. Wouldn't take anyone else, 
not even Tedder."89 After Eisenhower and Bedell Smith endorsed the selection 
of Spaatz, Arnold presumably obtained a final ratification from the President. 
Roosevelt, who had used his flight and the previous days' meetings and dinner 
with Eisenhower and Spaatz in Tunis to add to impressions collected earlier, 
raised no objection. 

Then Arnold and Bedell Smith informed Spaatz of his appointment to the 
post of Commanding General, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe. Spaatz him- 
self would have preferred not to set up an overall strategic headquarters,90 but he 
told Arnold that once the new headquarters went into operation "it must come 
under Eisenhower's control not later than March 1 to be properly tied in with 
OvERLORD."9i He added that it might be possible to increase the rate of opera- 
tions in Britain but that congested conditions there might prevent the full use of 
aircraft. Finally, he explained the complicated air command arrangements in the 
Mediterranean to Arnold and warned that the contemplated shift of personnel 
(such as Tedder and himself) might well upset the delicate balance between the 
RAF and the AAF there.92 

This last point may have been the final consideration in Arnold's decision to 
remove Ira Eaker from command of the Eighth Air Force and transfer him to the 
Mediterranean. As Arnold and Spaatz had confirmed that day, Tedder would 
soon vacate his post as Air Officer Commanding, Mediterranean Allied Air 
Forces (MAAF) to go to England as Eisenhower's deputy commander (not as 
deputy for air). Eaker's transfer south would allow the AAF to fill the chief air 
command in the Mediterranean — a position promised to the Americans during 
the general reorganization of the commands in the theater — with a widely expe- 
rienced combat officer. 

After their meeting Arnold and Spaatz talked briefly with Eisenhower; they 
recommended Eaker's transfer and Eisenhower agreed.93 In addition, Spaatz 
reiterated to Eisenhower what he had told Bedell Smith — when the cross-chan- 
nel battle began, Spaatz should serve directly under Eisenhower so that all of the 
power of the strategic air forces could assist the invasion.94 The three generals 
left the conference unsure about exactly what form the subordination of 
USSTAF to the Supreme Allied Commander would take and when it would 
occur.95 Two and one-half weeks later, on Christmas Day, Eisenhower con- 
fessed to Marshall, "To be perfectly frank, this assignment for Spaatz leaves me 
somewhat puzzled as to purpose and . . . position of such a command in an 
American organization, since we always, in each Theater, insist upon a single 

After these brief meetings, all of which took place in little more than an 


Salerno and London 

hour, Spaatz returned to Foggia and his palatial headquarters with Arnold, where 
they spent the night. The next evening, December 9, Arnold, Spaatz, Doolittle, 
and Cannon met over dinner to discuss the new organization and the future of 
the Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces. As for personnel, Spaatz reaffirmed his 
recommendation that Eaker be transferred to the Mediterranean and suggested 
that Doolittle replace him as commander of the Eighth, that Brereton retain com- 
mand of the Ninth (the tactical air force designated to provide American direct 
support for Overlord), and that Carmon keep the Twelfth while becoming head 
of MAAF's Tactical Air Force* Arnold was also finally convinced that the 
Fifteenth could handle the fifteen additional heavy-bombardment groups sched- 
uled for the Mediterranean Theater.^? 

On December 12, Arnold completed his talks with Spaatz, finished his 
inspection of the AAF in Italy, and departed for Tunis to complete arrangements 
with Eisenhower. They agreed to the personnel changes recommended by 
Spaatz with the addition of Maj. Gen. Nathan F. Twining, who at that time com- 
manded the Thirteenth Air Force in the South Pacific, to command the Fifteenth. 
By December 15, Arnold had returned to Washington greatly pleased. In his 
memoirs he wrote, "As far as the Army Air Forces were concerned the thing we 
wanted most of all had been gained at the [Cairo] Conference. We had received 
confirmation of our present plans for bombing the interior of Germany to a 

Upon his return to the Pentagon, Arnold set in motion the personnel changes 
to which he, Spaatz, and Eisenhower had agreed. Eaker's transfer to the 
Mediterranean immediately became a cause celebre. Eaker must have known he 
stood on slippery turf. Both before and after Arnold's inspection tour in Septem- 
ber he had received from Arnold's headquarters an increasingly querulous string 
of inquiries demanding higher rates of operations, greater employment en masse 
of available aircraft, and more spectacular bombing results.99 Only a month 
before, however, he, Spaatz, and Tedder had met at Gibraltar to discuss the 
coordination of the Combined Bomber Offensive between the Eighth, the 
Fifteenth, and RAF Bomber Command. They agreed to put Eaker on Spaatz's 
Redline and to exchange messages at least twice a day. They further divided 
Germany into bombing zones and allocated targets for each American air force; 
and they provided for exchanging target material, posting liaison officers in each 
headquarters, and sharing blind-bombing (bombing through clouds with the use 
of radar) techniques. They also allowed the Fifteenth to station a permanent 
intelligence liaison officer in London as its representative on all British Air 
Ministry intelligence matters. 100 At the end of the conference the three Allied air- 

* The current MAAF Tactical Air Force Commander, Air Marshal Coningham, had already 
been selected to command the British 2d Tactical Air Force which would support the British ground 
forces in Overlord. The Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) had been redesignated 
Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF) in the fall of 1943. 


Spaatz and the Air War m Europe 

Maj. Gen. John K. Cannon, Commanding General, Northwest African Tactical Air 
Force; Lt. Gen. Car! A. Spaatz, Commanding General, Northwest African Air 
Forces; Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, Commanding General, Fifth Army; and General 
Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Forces, awaiting depar- 
ture in front of an idling Piper L-4 Grasshopper, after a visit to the Fifth Army 
front in the Pesenzano area, Italy, December 11, 1943. 

men sent word to Arnold, "We are in complete agreement on all matters."l0l 

Apparently, Eaker had his first intimation that Arnold remained dissatisfied 
with his operation during a visit on December 14 from Portal, who asked him to 
answer the criticisms that Arnold had expressed during the three conferences at 
Cairo and Tehran. Baker's defense satisfied Portal, who forwarded it to Arnold 
and concluded, "I found Eaker thoroughly alive to need for earliest possible 
attacks on Pointblank targets and to importance of using maximum force avail- 
able. I am confident you will see great achievements as soon as weather gives 
him a chance."J02 Four days later Eaker received the official message transfer- 
ring him to the position of Commanding General of the Mediterranean Allied 
Air Forces. 

Arnold put the best possible face on the move; "As a result of your long 
period of successful operations and the exceptional results of your endeavors as 
Commander of the Air Force in England you have been recommended for this 
position."l03 But Eaker objected to being "kicked upstairs." He felt as if he had 
been kicked in an even more sensitive area. More than twenty years later, he 
remarked, "The darkest hour for me was when I was ordered to the Mediterranean 


Salerno and London 

Maj. Gen. James H. Doolittle in front of a Martin B-26 Marauder at Maison Blanche, 
Algeria, October 15, 1943. 

and relieved of my command of the 8th Air Force."i04 To Maj. Gen. James E. 
Fechet, a fonner head of the Air Corps and an old friend, Eaker said, "I feel like 
a pitcher who has been sent to the showers during a world series game."'05 

Shocked and angry, Eaker fought to retain control of the command that he 
had nurtured over the previous thirteen hard months. With an abundant supply 
of heavy bombers and new P-51 long-range escort fighters filling the supply 
pipeline from the United States and beginning to reach the units in England, 
Eaker knew that he had success within his grasp. He immediately wrote to 

Believe war interest best served by my retention command Eighth Air Force; 
otherwise experience this theater for nearly two years wasted. If I am to be 
allowed any personal preference, having started with the Eighth and seen it 
organized for a major task in this theater, it would be heart-breaking to leave it 
just before climax.""* 

Then Eaker went to Devers, his theater commander, who was also ticketed 
for a Mediterranean berth (although he was ignorant of it at the time) and then to 
the U.S. ambassador to Britain, John Winant. Eaker even approached Portal. 
Finally, unaware that they had already approved of his transfer, he telegraphed 
Eisenhower and Spaatz for a reprieve. 107 Portal attempted to help Eaker, writing 
frankly to Arnold that he disagreed with some of the impending persoimel 
moves. "To move hun now that we approach the climax of the air war over 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Western Germany would be a grave mistake. I therefore greatly hope that when 
the final decision is made you will feel able to leave Eaker here."i08 Portal also 
thought Doolittle ought to stay with the Fifteenth and, in a backhanded slap at 
Brereton, who already commanded the Ninth Air Force, he said, "I do not know 
Twining, but if you should decide to send him to 9th Air Force to take 
Brereton's place I can assure him a warm welcome and a receptive ear for his 
Pacific experience."l09 AH this was to no avail. 

Arnold's replies to Portal and Devers (written by Kuter) emphasized the 
need for a man of Baker's qualities in the Mediterranean (to fill the vacuum left 
by Spaatz). To Devers, Arnold added, "This move is necessary from the view- 
point of world wide air operations."! 10 To Portal, Arnold replied that General 
Wilson would find Eaker topnotch in the Mediterranean and "the Spaatz- 
Doolittle- Anderson team a vigorous and effective one in the U.K."lii Arnold 
did his best to quash any hope Eaker retained of staying with the Eighth: "I 
extend to you my heartfelt thanks for the splendid cooperation and loyalty that 
you have given me thus far and for the wonderful success of your organization, 
but I cannot, repeat, not see my way clear to make any change in the decisions 
already reached.''^'^ Spaatz, after receiving Arnold's approval, replied in a vari- 
ation on the same theme: "Command of an Air Force in either place is relatively 
of less importance as compared to overall requirements, particularly since 
Eighth Air Force under new setup will function as an operating headquarters 
more nearly approximating Eighth bomber command."! 13 

Eaker's appeals did not go completely unheeded. On December 23, Bedell 
Smith informed Spaatz, that "strong objections are being raised to the transfer of 
Eaker from the U.K." Spaatz, who replied that he would not go to England 
unless Ira Eaker came to the Mediterranean, still believed that the AAF in 
the Mediterranean required Eaker's leadership to replace his own. us in a post- 
war interview he said: 

I know this — that I would have been satisfied to have stayed down in the 
Mediterranean and command the Mediterranean Air Force, if I hadn't had to go 
up on that cross-channel operation. ... I didn't look forward at all to England at 
that time. I felt my job down in the Mediterranean was just the job I wanted to 

From Bedell Smith, Spaatz learned that his position would be clarified by 
Eisenhower in a cable to Marshall, H'? and he recorded in his Command Diary 
his irritation at what he regarded as Arnold's backshding on the subject. Arnold 
had not strongly enough sold Marshall on the changes, and now Eisenhower 
would have to bail them both out. "My original estimation of Eisenhower's fair- 
ness has been strengthened," noted Spaatz, "by the way ... he is taking this and 
the way he is standing by me in my decision."ii8 

But before Eisenhower could send his explanation, he found a stinging tele- 
gram on his desk from Marshall, who had received Eaker's cri de coeur on 


Salerno and London 

December 22, when he returned to Washington from a Pacific tour following the 
Second Cairo Conference. 119 Marshall, tired after a long tour and still deeply 
disappointed from his own failure to gain the Overlord command, reacted with 
an uncharacteristically emotional display, especially for a man who exemplified 
the Virginia Military Institute tradition, derived from George Washington 
and Robert E. Lee, of complete imperturbability in the face of stress. After 
questioning the tendency to "gut" the Mediterranean theater of leadership, 
Marshall said, "I believe 1 was more disturbed over the pressure of TEDDER 
and SPAATZ to move EAKER to the Mediterranean because to me he did not 
appear particularly suited for that theater and I am forced to the conclusion that 
their attitude is selfish and not purely objective."i20 Arnold seemed to have cre- 
ated the impression that not he, but Spaatz and Tedder, wanted Eaker ousted. 

On Christmas day in Tunis Eisenhower told Spaatz that he would send a 
message to Marshall in which he would give Spaatz' s views as his own. Spaatz 
again remarked in his diary, "General Eisenhower has [been] and is firm in [his] 
decisions and I consider him one of the finest men I know." 1 21 In his "Eyes 
Only" cable to Marshall, Eisenhower gave assurances that he had studied the 
proposed personnel changes for some time and had a "completely objective" 
attitude in recommending them. Then Eisenhower justified the transfer by point- 
ing out Eaker's ability and noting the waste of talent involved in having him and 
Spaatz in the same theater. The only other air officer he would consider for the 
Mediterranean, Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, had just set up his Ninth Air Force 
in England to serve as the U.S. tactical air force in support of Overlord. 
Brereton' s selection might disrupt that vital phase of the invasion. 

Noting Spaatz's intention to stay in the Mediterranean if Eaker stayed in 
London, Eisenhower implied that he needed Spaatz in London and that he 
accepted conditions concerning Eaker. Eisenhower emphasized to Marshall that 
in Spaatz he had one of the few senior officers experienced in air-ground sup- 
port, a practice "that is not repeat not widely understood and takes men of some 
vision and broad understanding to do . . . right. Otherwise a commander is for- 
ever fighting with those air officers who, regardless of the ground situation, 
want to send big bombers on missions that have nothing to do with the critical 

Later in the day Eisenhower wrote to Eaker, stating of the new move that 
Arnold (with no mention of Spaatz) had proposed it during his stopover in Sicily 
and that he had agreed to it "because of the absolute necessity of finding an out- 
standing man for the post of Air CINC of the Mediterranean." He then added his 
own opinion that if Spaatz left for Britain, Eaker must come south, for "we do 
not repeat not have enough top men to concentrate them in any one place. "123 

The day after Christmas Spaatz flew from Tunis to Algiers for further dis- 
cussion about the new posts with Eisenhower, who showed him the message 
from Marshall questioning Eaker's transfer. At first Spaatz bristled and told him 
that he would write to Marshall to explain; but upon reflection he decided 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

against such a move. 124 it would accomplish nothing except to prod Marshall on 
a sore point and make Spaatz appear self-serving. Besides, the transfer had been 
confirmed and Spaatz would leave for England in two days. At the same meet- 
ing Spaatz told Eisenhower that in order to prevent disputes, presumably about 
logistical, material, and replacement priorities between the Eighth and Ninth Air 
Forces, Eisenhower needed to appoint a Commanding General, Army Air 
Forces, European Theater of Operations. As m the Mediterranean, a single AAF 
general officer could then arbitrate between the competing demands of the 
strategic and tactical air forces. Spaatz also told Eisenhower that, instead of 
dealing directly with the Fifteenth Air Force, he intended always to go through 
the Commander of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, in this case, Eaker.i25 

In the Eaker incident, Eisenhower had taken a straightforward position. He 
welcomed Arnold's and Spaatz's recommendation because he wanted Spaatz in 
England with him. When objections arose, he backed Spaatz. When Spaatz made 
it clear he would not go to Britain unless Eaker was transferred, Eisenhower per- 
suaded Marshall to bow to the new arrangements. 

Spaatz, too, had taken a straightforward position during the Eaker transfer. 
At no point in his wartime papers or postwar interviews did he criticize Baker's 
performance in command of the Eighth. Unlike Arnold, Spaatz had extensive 
personal experience with difficulties involved in the mounting of large-scale 
heavy-bomber missions and with the frustrating and peculiar weather conditions 
in England and Western Europe. Spaatz believed in Ira Baker's great ability, 
especially as a military diplomat, and wanted him in the Mediterranean to 
advance the war effort and the AAF's cause as the new Commander of the 
Mediterranean Allied Air Forces. Knowing that Eisenhower wanted him in 
London, Spaatz told Arnold: "If I go to England, then Ira must have command of 
the air forces in the Mediterranean."l26 He did not consider Baker's move a 
demotion; 127 in fact, Spaatz later credited himself with the original recommen- 
dation that Eaker move.l28 He wanted Eaker in the Mediterranean because he 
knew that, given the complex and intermingled operational and administrative 
controls over the American air forces in Europe in which he and Eaker would 
operate, he needed a man he knew and trusted. 129 

There was no hint that Spaatz advocated Baker's transfer in order to remove 
a rival or a possible center of opposition from England. 

Unlike Eisenhower and Spaatz, Arnold had mixed motives in removing 
Eaker. AAF official historians said in 1949, "If Arnold's dissatisfaction over the 
rate of Eighth Air Force operations entered into the decision, the record appar- 
ently has left no evidence of it."130 xhe diplomatic record of the Cairo Confer- 
ence, published in 1961, and Amold's own memoirs, published in 1949, contra- 
dicted them. Arnold probably did feel that Baker's talents could be more effec- 
tively applied in the Mediterranean, but he did not lose sight of his main goal — 
removing Eaker from the Eighth Air Force for not fully employing the resources 
supplied him to pursue the ultimate purpose of the Combined Bomber Offensive. 


Salerno and London 

He seized on the command shuffle stemming from the Cairo and Tehran confer- 
ences to cloak a decision he had probably already reached. In his own mind, at 
least, he had saved face for himself, Eaker, and, most important, for his beloved 
AAF. Eaker might be broken-hearted and a friendship of twenty-five years' 
standing shattered, but Eaker and Spaatz had been moved to where the 
Commander of the AAF wanted them. 

In February 1944, Arnold explained to Spaatz his reason for assigning him 
to London in a highly emotional and confidential letter. Arnold had advanced 
the Strategic Air Force for a purely military consideration — unity of command 
for the British and Italian portions of the bomber offensive. But he went on: 

Another and perhaps equally important motive behind the formation of the 
United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe was my desire to build an 
American Air Commander to a high position prior to the defeat of Germany. It 
is that aspect particularly which has impelled me in my so far successful fight 
to keep your command parallel to Harris' command and, therefore, parallel to 
Dee's. If you do not remain in a position parallel with Harris, the air war will 
certainly be won by the RAF, if anybody. Already the spectacular effectiveness 
of their devastation of cities has placed their contribution in the popular mind at 
so high a plane that I am having the greatest difficulty in keeping your achieve- 
ment (far less spectacular to the public) in its proper role not only in publica- 
tions, but unfortunately in military and naval circles and, in fact, with the 
President himself Therefore, considering only the aspect of a proper American 
share in credit for success in the air war, I feel we must have a high air com- 
mander some place in Europe. Today you can be that commander.'^' 

After an exchange of messages on personnel matters between Eisenhower 
and Marshall, the latter accepted Eisenhower's recommendations almost in toto. 
Marshall acquiesced in Spaatz's transfer with the proviso that no large new staff 
organization be created as a consequence of it. 132 

On December 28, 1943, Spaatz boarded his B-17 on the first leg of the flight 
to England. For thirteen months he had advanced the effectiveness and impor- 
tance of the AAF in the war against the Axis in the Mediterranean Theater of 
Operations. His personal involvement in the day-to-day operations of the NAAF 
had waned as Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder actively assumed his own role as 
Eisenhower's Commander in Chief for Air. Spaatz had directed the bombing of 
Pantelleria, controlling the combined operation's plarming, execution, and air, 
naval, and land coordination. From that high point of broad responsibility his 
influence had steadily diminished until, by the end of the Sicihan campaign, he 
apparently exercised little control over his RAF subordinate commander for the 
Tactical Air Force, Air Marshal Arthur Coningham. 

As a result of the peculiarities of the Allied command structure in the Medi- 
terranean, Spaatz found himself reduced to the de facto position of head of the 
Northwest African Strategic Air Force. After the merger of Spaatz's and 
Tedder's operational headquarters by Eisenhower in late summer 1943, Tedder 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

felt free to go directly to the RAF Commander of the Tactical and Coastal Air 
Forces, but constrained to go through Spaatz to give orders to Doolittle, an 
American officer. That this situation did not cause a great deal more anger and 
mistrust than it did is a tribute to the personalities of Tedder and Spaatz, espe- 
cially Spaatz, who subordinated himself for the mutual good. 

Spaatz concentrated his energies on consolidating the AAF's position within 
the theater and expanding its part in the Combined Bomber Offensive. He suc- 
ceeded in both endeavors. By the end of his tenure in the Mediterranean he had a 
fully functional ail-American communications network, Redline, in place, 
which enabled him, as AAF chief in the Mediterranean, to retain close adminis- 
trative ties with his units, independent of the RAF or any combined Allied orga- 
nization. Redline also allowed him to retain what minimal control of operations 
he had. 

Spaatz held the strongest belief that an air force based in the Mediterranean 
Theater could, by attacking from the south, increase Germany's defense burden 
and advance the goal of the Combined Bomber Offensive. His convincing 
Arnold and Eisenhower and, then, the three's convincing the Combined Chiefs 
of Staff of the soundness of that belief resulted in the establishment of the 
Fifteenth Air Force. He may also have felt, at least until his appointment as head 
of U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, that commanding the Fifteenth rather 
than serving as Tedder's deputy would give him a chance to contribute more to 
the war effort. 

When Spaatz departed for London he left behind two large, well-organized, 

and well-supplied American air forces. Of course, a year's worth of combat 
experience and the fruits of America's vast industrial effort did much to improve 
their status. Spaatz also deserves credit as a military administrator. The responsi- 
bility for military administration rested in his headquarters, not in Tedder's 
Mediterranean Air Command or the Strategic, Tactical, and Coastal Air Forces. 
They dealt only with operations.l33 Without Spaatz's efforts there might have 
been not only one air force, but one air force dominated by the RAF and devoted 
to the close support of the army. Spaatz's establishment of a strategic air force, 
over the objections of those favoring a stronger heavy-bomber buildup in 
England, would also prove important in the long run. Bombers based in Britain 
did not have the range to hit the vital Axis oil targets of southeastern Europe. 
Without the Fifteenth Air Force, the Allied bombing campaign would have 
achieved substantially fewer results. Arnold might well have refused to consider 
splitting his forces in the face of the enemy and handing part of them over to an 
officer he did not know as well or trust as completely as Spaatz. 


Part Four 

The Point of the Blade 

Strategic Bombing and the 
Cross-Channel Invasion 
January-June 1944 

Part Four 
The Point of the Blade 

Strategic Bombing bears the same relationship to tactical 
bombing as does the cow to a pail of milk. To deny imme- 
diate aid and comfort to the enemy, tactical considerations 
dictate upsetting the bucket. To insiu°e eventual starvation, 
the strategic move is to kill the cow.' 

— US. Strategic Bombing Survey, November 1945 

On January 1, 1944, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz officially assumed command of 
the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSTAF). This new headquar- 
ters had operational control of two U.S. strategic air forces, the Eighth in Britain 
and the Fifteenth in Italy. Under the direction of the Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, 
who acted as an agent for the U.S.-British Combined Chiefs of Staff, Spaatz was 
responsible for directing the U.S. portion of the Combined Bomber Offensive — 
the U.S.-British strategic bombing campaign against the German war economy 
and military machine. At some imspecified future date, before the invasion of 
France from Britain (Overlord), Spaatz would come under the command of the 
Supreme Allied Commander of the invasion force. Once under Eisenhower's 
control, USSTAF would apply its forces to the preinvasion air campaign, to the 
assault, and to subsequent phases of the campaign. 

Spaatz would play a far stronger and more prominent role in the deliberations 
of the Allied high command and enjoy greater prestige and autonomy than his pre- 
decessor, Ira Eaker, because he was much friendlier with Eisenhower and Tedder, 
because he would oversee a much larger, more generously supplied, more effective, 
and more organizationally indepeiuient force, and because, in the last analysis, he 
would exercise a more forceful personality.2 In the beginning of 1944, the focus of 
Anglo-American operations shifted from the Mediterranean to northwest Europe, 
where the decisive ground operation to overthrow Germany would be launched. 
This fact magnified the importance of the commanders and their decisions. 

Spaatz faced two problems: he had to (1) get the maximum number of bombers 
over the target (which meant using escort fighters because not enough unescorted 
bombers would survive to reach their destinations) and (2) get the greatest possi- 
ble accuracy from bombs delivered. Spaatz was compelled to substitute sheer 
tonnage for precision when his bombers failed to destroy their targets — this 
practice required bombing in less-than-perfect weather conditions and using 
radar for navigation and sighting. 


By January 1944, the Americans' operational plan for their part of the 
Combined Bomber Offensive, known as Pointblank, had three high-priority 
targets: (1) single-engine fighter plane production, (2) twin-engine fighter plane 
production, and (3) German antifriction bearing manufacturing.3 As a single 
overriding prerequisite to the neutralization of these targets, Pointblank called 
for the destruction of the Luftwaffe's fighter forces in being — the chief obstacle 
to the success of the Combined Bomber Offensive. Pointblank had its origins 
at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, where Roosevelt, Churchill, and 
their military staffs had agreed to a bomber offensive against Germany. In May 
1943, at the Washington Conference, the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved a 
plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive drawn up by Eaker and the Eighth Air 
Force. This plan was based on priorities originated by an AAF-supported study 
group (the Committee of Operations Analysts) and agreed on, with some modifi- 
cations, by experts of the British Ministry of Economic Warfare and the RAF 
Air Staff.4 

The plan gave the highest priority to German fighter plane production. Early 
elimination of fighter manufacture was essential to the accomplishment of the 
rest of the Combined Bomber Offensive and would heighten the chances of suc- 
cess for the cross-channel invasion by reducing expected air opposition. Allied 
planners had identified antifriction, or ball, bearings as crucial in the production 
of German war materiel. The effects of their unavailability, although not imme- 

Air Chief Marshal 
TraiTord Leigh-Mallory, 
Commander, Allied 
Expeditionary Air Force, 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

diately felt in enemy front-line strength, would eventually touch all types of 
high-speed military equipment. The Allies believed from their own experience 
that ball bearings could not be stockpiled and that only large plants could manu- 
facture a complete range of them. In addition, more than half of all German pro- 
duction was concentrated in one locality within range of bombers based in 
Britain — Schweinfurt.5 But the Allies soon learned that the Germans were not 
so dependent on ball bearings as predicted. Moreover, the Eighth Air Force, 
because of heavy losses, had been unable to follow up attacks on Schweinfurt in 
August and October, which had alerted the Germans and led them to disperse 
the industry and redesign their equipment to use less of its vital product. 

While attempting to carry out their mission under Pointblank, Spaatz and 
his headquarters became increasingly involved in the planning and the conduct 
of the preinvasion air campaign. A protracted dispute eventually developed 
between Spaatz and the Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force 
(AEAF), Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory. Spaatz became, almost by 
default, the chief spokesman for a faction of the Allied high command that 
objected to the massive antirailroad and transportation interdiction plan sup- 
ported by Tedder and advocated by Leigh-Mallory, who had operational control 
of all tactical combat air forces directly assigned to Eisenhower's invasion force. 

These two interwoven threads of Pointblank and Overlord dominated 
Spaatz's thoughts and actions for the crucial period between New Year's Day 
1944 and the invasion of France on D-day, June 6, 1944. 


Chapter 9 

The Luftwaffe Engaged 
(January-February 1944) 

We look upon our attacks against Germany now as major 
battles that are phases of a campaign. Each of these battles 
has all the elements of a major land or sea engagement, 
involving movement over tremendous distances, involving 
holding forces, involving penetrations and involving envel- 

— Spaatz to Arnold, January 10, 1944 

Reports of the actual dispatch of over 800 heavy bombers 
against German fighter targets on 2 successive days and 
your ability and intention to repeat on the 3rd day are the 
brightest items that have crossed this desk for a long time.^ 

— Arnold to Spaatz, January 31, 1944 

Upon his arrival in London on December 29, 1943, Spaatz found the Eighth 
Air Force facing a crisis. For two and a half months it had flown no deep-pene- 
tration bombing missions into Germany during clear weather.3 As the Army Air 
Forces offical history admitted, "The Eighth Air Force had for the time being 
lost [the battle for] air superiority over Germany. "4 The AAF had learned during 
the October 14 Schweinfurt mission, in which it lost 60 of 320 bombers dis- 
patched, wrote off 7 bombers as not repairable, and counted 138 more as dam- 
aged,5 — "that such operations without fighter protection were impossibly 
costly."6 Portal, in his capacity as the coordinator for Pointblank, informed the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff on December 4, 1943, that "the program was, in fact, 
some three months behind [schedule]. ""^ As of early January 1944, Eighth Air 
Force statistics, only slightly skewed by the disastrous Schweinfurt mission. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

showed that only 26 percent of those crews beginning operational tours in the 
theater could expect to complete twenty-five missions (the minimum needed to 
return to the States); 57 percent would be dead or missing; and the remaining 17 
percent would fail to complete their tours because of combat fatigue, accidental 
death, transfer, or administrative reasons.^ Arnold reported only slightly less dis- 
couraging statistics to Marshall, noting that the Eighth's 3.8 percent loss rate per 
mission from July through November translated into a loss of 64 crew members* 
out of every 100.9 

Spaatz, however, would soon take advantage of opportunities and resources 
unavailable to his unlucky predecessor, Ira Eaker. In a campaign that bore some 
resemblance to that of Ulysses S. Grant versus Robert E. Lee in the spring of 
1864, Spaatz would use every opportunity to close with the Luftwaffe and force 
it to bleed and die. Similarly, just as the relative contributions of Grant and 
George G. Meade, the actual commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, 
blurred and merged, so, too, did those of Spaatz and his chief subordinate Maj. 
Gen. James H. Doolittle. Grant's drive from Fredericksburg to Petersburg 
destroyed the offensive potential of Lee's army and tied it to a trench system 
that it could not successfully defend. Spaatz, in the upcoming campaign, would 
pull the Luftwaffe's teeth, forcing it to defend only the most preeminently 
important target systems, such as oil, while allowing the AAF daylight air 
supremacy over Germany. Also like Grant, Spaatz benefited through the prodi- 
gal output of men and material from an industrial economy whose production 
was overwhelming. 

The pipeline that had supplied Eaker with only a slowly increasing force 
overflowed in late 1943 and early 1944 for Spaatz. The Allied victory in the 
Battle of the Atlantic and massive U.S. merchant shipping production turned the 
constricted flow of supplies that had slowed the U.S. buildup in Britain for the 
first one and a half years of the war into a fast-flowing river. As a consequence 
of delays caused, in part, by a January 1943 decision by Arnold and Spaatz to 
divert P-38s to the North African Theater, Eaker's first operational P-38 
"Lightning" long-range fighter group (the 55th) of approximately seventy-five 
aircraft became operational the day after the Schweinfurt mission. The P-38s of 
the 20th Fighter Group went into action in December 1943, as did the first long- 
range P-51B Mustang fighters (the Ninth Air Force's 354th Fighter Group). In 
March the P-51 began to use new external fuel tanks (drop tanks), which en- 
abled it to go as far as any bombers in the theater. 10 

As of December 30, 1943, the Army Air Forces in England comprised 4,618 

* A loss rate of 3.8 percent per mission meant that 3.8 percent of the original force was lost on 
each mission. By the end of 25 missions the cumulative loss suffered by the original 100 air crews 
was therefore 64 air crews, even though only 3.8 percent, on average, were lost in a single mission. 
Reinforcement of the original 100 crews would have no effect on their chances for statistical sur- 
vival because new arrivals would be lost at the same rate. 


Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, Commanding General, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in 
Europe; Maj. Gen. Natlian F. Twining, Commanding General, Fifteenth Air Force; 
and Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Commanding General, Mediterranean Allied Air Force. 

Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, Commanding General, Ninth Air Force; Lt. Gen. 
Carl A. Spaatz, Commanding General, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe; and 
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, 
studying a photograph of a Ninth Air Force medium bomber field, April 22, 1944. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

aircraft, 4,242 of them combat aircraft, divided into 4574 groups (26% of heavy 
bombers, 12 of fighters, 4 of medium bombers, 2 of troop carriers, and 1 of 
reconnaissance).! 1 Despite constant attrition from September 1943 to May 1944, 
the number of fully operational heavy bombers in Eighth Air Force tactical units 
rose from 461 to 1,655. During the same period the Eighth's fighter aircraft also 
jumped from 274 to 88212 and the number of personnel assigned to the Eighth 
went from 150,000 to 400,000. By February 19, 1944, another part of Spaatz's 
command, the Fifteenth Air Force, would contribute an additional 12 heavy 
bomber and 4 fighter groups.i3 

Before taking on the Luftwaffe, Spaatz instituted a system in which opera- 
tions and administration received equal attention. This arrangement stemmed 
from Spaatz's dual responsibilities as the Commander of USSTAF, in opera- 
tional control of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, and as the head of the AAF 
in Britain in charge of administration for the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. The 
Ninth, a tactical air force, made up the U.S. contingent of Air Chief Marshal 
Leigh-Mallory's AEAF. Spaatz appointed Brig. Gen. Hugh J. Knerr as his 
Deputy for Administration, assigning directorates subordinate to him for person- 
nel, supply, maintenance, and administration. 14 Maj. Gen. Frederick L. 
Anderson became Spaatz's deputy for operations over directorates for operations 
and intelligence. (See Chart 4, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, May 1944.) 
The official AAF history comments that this arrangement "integrated operations 
and logistics in one headquarters to a degree never before attained and repre- 
sented a triumph for the concept that logistics was of equal importance with 

By elevating logistics to the same command level as operations Spaatz 
increased the status and morale of his logistics organizations. He placed his 
administrative control of the Ninth Air Force at the same level as his operational 
control over the Fifteenth Air Force. By tying the Eighth and Ninth together 
administratively, Spaatz made it harder for the Ninth to separate itself com- 
pletely from his headquarters. He also emphasized the separateness of the AAF 
from both the RAF and the U.S. ground forces. A few months later Spaatz wrote 
to Arnold, "The Maintenance and Supply fiinctions of our Air Forces cannot be 
integrated into the British Maintenance and Supply system for obvious reasons. 
Therein we have a firm foundation upon which to build our effort to regain and 
retain complete control of all U.S. air units in all theaters." Not only did the new 
organization help to maintain independence from the British; it helped also to 
maintain institutional independence from the U.S. Army Service Forces (ASF). 
In the same letter he added, "We must always be alert that the A.S.F. does not 
extend its control of ground services to the Air Forces through lack of an organi- 
zation of our own capable of rendering all manner of base services to air units in 
the combat zone."l6 In keeping with Spaatz's desire to avoid as much adminis- 
trative detail as possible, the reorganization reduced the number of people 
reporting directly to him to three — ^the two deputies and his chief of staff. 


Chart 4 

U. S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe 
May 1944 


Director of 

Director of 

Director of 

Commanding General USSTAF 

Daputy CommaiMling Gamral 


Adjutant General 

Director of 

Admitustrative Control 

OperadcMial Control through MAAF ■ 

Comnwndbig Qmersl 
Eighth Air Fbffce 

Commanding General 
Fifteenth Afr Force 

Deputy Commanding General 

Commanding Qonaral 
Air Service Command USSTAF 

Air Inspector 

Director of 

INrector of 

Statistic^ Control Office 

Director of 

American Component 

Commanding General 
Ninth Air Force 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz meetii^ his oldest daughter, "Tattie" (Katharine) (left), a 
Red Cross worker, England, January 1944. 

The Luftwaffe Engaged 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz and his command plane, a B-17 named for his youngest 
daughter, "Boops" (Carla), Italy, 1944. 

Spaatz overcame the worries of Portal and Marshall that his headquarters 
would graft a new and large layer of bureaucratic staff onto already awkward air 
command arrangements in England. His new headquarters simply moved in 
on Eighth Air Force Headquarters, abolished it, absorbed most of it, and sent the 
rump on to the headquarters of VIII Bomber Command, which, in turn, became 
Doolittle's new headquarters, redesignated Headquarters, Eighth Air Force. 

Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff, participated in 
the discussions for the new organization. On January 1, he assured Eisenhower, 
who had returned to the United States for a short visit, that "the . . . planned 
Organization represents NO repeat NO increase in personnel and NO repeat NO 
increase in the number of Headquarters ."l^ The same day, Spaatz and Bedell 
Smith agreed to locate Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters with USSTAF at 
Bushy Park, code-named Widewings.18 Spaatz believed that this arrangement 
overcame one of the basic flaws of the Mediterranean organization, which had 
allowed the different service commanders to locate their headquarters in areas 
widely separated from the theater commanders and each other. 

The decision to co-locate USSTAF and SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters 
Allied Expeditionary Force) together gave Spaatz an advantage over the other 
air leaders. Their very distance from Eisenhower would assure Spaatz greater 
access to the ear of the Supreme Commander. Bedell Smith's and Spaatz 's 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

agreement ruined the plans of the Commander in Chief of the AlHed Expedi- 
tionary Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory in his complex at Stanmore. 
He had intended to move Eisenhower into Bushey Heath, a group of adjacent 
buildings. Stanmore, the Headquarters of No. 1 1 Group, had perhaps the finest 
communications network in Britain. Much of the Battle of Britain had been 
directed from Stanmore, and its facilities had since expanded. Before Leigh- 
Mallory and Lt. Gen. Frederick Morgan, the principal planner for Overlord des- 
ignated Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Command (COSSAC), could explain the 
situation to Smith, however, several battalions of U.S. engineers had descended 
on Bushy Park and erected Eisenhower's headquarters. When Bedell Smith 
learned that Morgan and Leigh-Mallory had meant to place SHAEF at Stanmore, 
he remarked, "My God, I've married the wrong woman."l9 From the beginning 
of the campaign, Spaatz gained a leg up in the fight over the air command 
arrangements that would plague the Allies until April 1944. 

Spaatz further strengthened his command by supporting and pursuing far- 
sighted personnel management practices. He continued the enlightened racial 
policies of his predecessor, Ira Eaker. As the number of black AAF persormel 
in England began to increase above 3,000, Eaker instructed his staff to "stop 
arguing as to reasons why they [blacks] were sent here and do our best to coop- 
erate with the War Department in making their employment here satisfactory to 
all concerned." Eaker believed that "90 percent of the trouble with Negro 
troops was the fault of the whites" and told his staff "to give serious thought to 
handling this important problem."20 As a result, in August 1943, the Eighth Air 
Force reorganized all black AAF units into the Combat Support Wing, a name 
carefully chosen to give black soldiers a feeling of contributing to the war 
effort. This move gave black AAF units a single strong commander with a good 
organization and an efficient supervisory headquarters. The commanding offi- 
cers of the Combat Support Wing were sensitive to racial problems and they 
recognized the circumstances unique to their black units. Spaatz and Eaker also 
made it clear that they would allow no discrimination and expected their troops 
to avoid derogatory remarks and altercations.^! 

Spaatz also enthusiastically supported the assignment of Women's Army 
Corps (WAC) personnel to USSTAF. So determinedly did he press for WACs 
that in February 1944 General Arnold succeeded in obtaining a USSTAF allo- 
cation of them separate fixim that of the European Theater of Operations. The 
AAF in Europe had a quota of 4,448 WACs as opposed to a quota of only 
1,727 for the ETO. By June 6, 1944, the AAF had female personnel assigned 
throughout its Bomber, Fighter, and Troop Carrier Commands and its bombard- 
ment divisions, even down to individual combat wings.22 Spaatz's own execu- 
tive officer, Capt. Sally Bagby, ran his unique personal/military headquarters. 
Spaatz was the highest-ranking officer in the theater to have assigned a woman 
to such a position. 


Maj. Gen. Frederick L. 
Anderson, Commanding 
General, VIII Bomber 
Command, December 

Maj. Gen. Earle E. 
Partridge, Deputy 
Commanding General, 
Eighth Air Force, spring 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Brig. Gen. Curtis E. 
LeMay, Commanding 
General, 3rd Bombard- 
ment Division, Eighth 
Air Force, 1943. 

Initial Operations 

On January 3, Spaatz was briefed on the V-1, a German jet-propelled pilot- 
less bomb, and the threat that it posed. The new weapon badly frightened British 
leaders, who immediately decided to concentrate a special effort on knocking 
out its launch sites and rendering it inoperable. This effort to eliminate the sites, 
code-named CROSSBOW, would divert, over Spaatz's continued objections, much 
of the AAF's strength from both strategic and preinvasion bombing. After this 
first experience with Crossbow Spaatz noted, somewhat acerbically, that it was 
"very apparent from all conversations so far" that "everyone" accepted the 
Crossbow diversion from the main air effort. Spaatz went on to observe that if 
the Germans considered Crossbow so important, why had fighter opposition to 
raids on the sites decreased from November to December?23 

From the beginning of January to Februaiy 15, the weather and Crossbow 
proved almost as adversarial to the U.S. daylight bombing offensive as the 
Luftwaffe. In that period the Eighth's heavy bombers flew combat missions on 
twenty-one days. Only six of those bombing missions went forward under com- 
pletely visual conditions, and only two of those six attacked strategic targets in 
Germany. Nine other missions struck V-1 launch sites in France.24 in eleven of the 
thirteen missions over Germany the AAF resorted to bombing directed by an 
early, inaccurate system of radar which enabled the Eighth to conduct only area 
bombing. Area bombing tormented the Germans but did not provide results any- 
where close to those obtained by visual means. The Eighth had only twelve B-17s 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

equipped with H2X radar equipment. They arrived in October 1943 with hand- 
built equipment and served as pathfinders (PFF), or lead planes, for bomber 
groups.25 Spaatz and Doolittie worked them hard. Their crews became exhausted. 

The American H2X derived from the British-developed H2S radar bombing 
system. H2X was critically important in increasing American bomb tonnage 
dropped on Europe because it enabled operations in overcast conditions. Its con- 
tribution to the weight of the U.S. bombing effort in 1944-1945 was second 
only to the success of the U.S. long-range fighter escorts in preserving the 
bombers themselves. That H2X stemmed from British, not American, efforts 
constituted another indictment of prewar U.S. military air thinking. America's 
failure to anticipate the need for long-range fighter escort and to develop as early 
as possible the ability to locate and bomb targets through clouds left U.S. strate- 
gic bombers operable at only a fraction of their strength and almost ruined the 
efforts of the AAF. The Americans owed a great debt to the RAF not only for 
the P-51 but for H2X as well. 

Ever mindful of public perception, Arnold instructed Spaatz to abjure the 
term "blind bombing" for the H2X technique, because it gave "both the military 
and the public an erroneous impression."26 Spaatz agreed to use such terms as 
"overcast bombing technique," "bombing through overcast," "bombing with 
navigational devices over clouds extending up to 20,000 feet."27 He also pressed 

Lt. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz and his executive officer, Capt. Sally Bagby, Women's 
Amy Corps, spring 1944. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Arnold for more radar-equipped planes, explaining that the "results of the past 
two months' extensive use of Pathfinder (H2X) aircraft in the Eighth Air Force 
have shown the equipment offers enormous possibilities for further intensifica- 
tion of the bombing offensive against Germany." He drove the point home by 
adding, "The most critical need of the Strategic Air Forces is for more 
Pathfinder aircraft. A few H2X airplanes now will profit our cause more than 
several hundred in six months" [emphasis in original]. 28 

The bombing of Germany by nonvisual means continued a policy begun 
under Eaker in the last quarter of 1943. Although nowhere nearly as accurate as 
precision bombing, radar bombing allowed more frequent operations, main- 
tamed the pressure on German cities, and forced the Luftwaffe to intercept under 
adverse weather conditions. Its adoption of this policy marked the AAF's accep- 
tance of the reality that daylight precision bombing alone could not win the air 
war. The implications of this belated acknowledgment were little remarked on at 
the time. Yet, at this point the AAF, without ever publicly or privately admitting 
it, abandoned its unquestioning faith in prewar bombing doctrines. 

Once he assumed command, Spaatz wanted to go after the Luftwaffe imme- 
diately. The Pointblank directive under which he operated left the means for 
doing so up to him. Spaatz 's approach differed significantly from that of his pre- 
decessor. Because of his lack of long-range escort fighters, Eaker had had no 
choice but to rely on a bomber-based strategy. The Eighth under Eaker's com- 
mand had attempted to ruin the Luftwaffe fighter force by bombing the German 
air industry. The Americans had hoped that attrition inflicted on all battle fronts 
and by short-range U.S. and RAF fighters out of Britain would destroy the dam- 
aged German air industry's ability to replace losses. Eaker may have focused too 
heavily on his bombers and their task. His fighters appear to have concentrated 
on their escort duties to the detriment of then: possible employment in counterair 
and ground sweeps. This philosophy was made clear during an Eighth Air Force 
Commanders' meeting in September 1943, where the prevailing sentiment was 
that "fighters must escort the bombers whether they bring down any German 
fighters or not."^^ In any case, Eaker had few fighters to waste. 

Official doctrine supported Eaker's tactics. AAF Field Manual 1-15, 
"Tactics and Techniques of Air Fighting," of April 10, 1942, and AAF Field 
Manual 1-5, of January 18, 1943, emphasized pursuit's air defense and escort 
roles, with a bow to ground support. The replacement for the latter manual. War 
Department Field Manual 100-20, sent a mixed message. In addressing the role 
of fighters belonging to a strategic air force, such as the Eighth, it stated, 
"Accompanying fighter aviation, where its radius of action permits, is also used 
to increase [the bomber's] security. Fighter aviation also furnishes air base 
defense for bombardment bases."30 That passage offered little encouragement 
for aggressive action. 

The direction given a tactical air force such as the Twelfth, differed radically 
from the advice given the strategic air forces. Whereas the mission of the strate- 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

Eighth Air Force heavy bombers, equipped with H2X radar, dropping four-pound 
incendiary bombs "blind" in overcast sities over Kiel, Germany, December 13, 1943. 

gic air force was "the defeat of the enemy nation,"3l the first priority of a tacti- 
cal air force was the gaining of air superiority "by attacks against aircraft in the 
air and on the ground, and against those enemy installations which he requires 
for the application of air power. "32 Fighters formed the air-to-air component of 
the counterair team, and light and medium bombardment formed the air-to- 
ground segment. The manual's tactical section reflected Spaatz's experience 
with the AAF in North Africa, as the strategic section reflected Eaker's experi- 
ence with the Eighth Air Force in Europe. 

Unlike Eaker, Spaatz and Doolittle decided on or before their arrival in 
Britain to intensify the campaign against the Luftwaffe by using their fighters in 
an offensive air-to-air role, instead of purely as escorts. Spaatz also intended to 
use the Ninth (Tactical) Air Force to assist in the counterair effort, despite the 
fact that Leigh-Mallory intended to use it for preinvasion operations. Shortly 
after Spaatz's visit to Washington two months earlier, Arnold had expressed to 
Marshall similarly aggressive sentiments which were probably reflective of his 
own combative temperament but could have come, in part, from Spaatz. Spaatz 
might have discussed his experiences in the Mediterranean campaign with 
Arnold. In any case, Arnold recommended in a memo to Marshall that the Allied 
air forces "seek out and destroy the Gemian Air Force in the air and on the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

ground without delay. The defensive concept of our fighter commands and air 
defense units must be changed to the offensive." He called for more imaginative 
use of fighters as ground strafers, as fighter bombers, and as air-to-ground rocket 
launchers to assist the Overlord assault.33 Spaatz could be sure of Arnold's 
support for a more active fighter force. Both men must have realized and 
counted on the fact that a changeover to offensive fighter tactics would impose a 
far higher rate of attrition on both the Luftwaffe and the AAF. Arnold would 
have to support Spaatz with many replacement fighter pilots and aircraft. 

On several occasions, especially in his first meetings with Eighth Air Force 
staff personnel, Spaatz reiterated his desire to close with the Luftwaffe. On 
January 9, he visited the Eighth's War Room. There he met an old acquaintance. 
Col. Richard D'O. Hughes, Assistant Chief of Intelligence, and the principal 
link between the Eighth Air Force and the Enemy Objectives Unit (EOU) of the 
Economic Warfare Division of the U.S. Embassy, London. The EOU served as 
the de facto target planning staff of the Eighth. Hughes, an expatriate British 
subject with numerous British decorations and long-time service in the British 
Indian Army, served his new coimtry ably not only by applying his considerable 
intellect to the complicated issues of targeting but also by using the British "old 
boy" network to gain entree to British intelligence and targeting agencies.34 

Spaatz told Hughes of his main objective to knock out the Luftwaffe by hit- 
ting it in the air, on its airfields, and at its fighter factories: 

It is my belief that we do not get sufficient attrition by hitting fighter factories, 
therefore we must place emphasis on airdromes and knocking them down in the 
air. Our mission is destroying the Gterman Air Force, and that we will hit pri- 
mary objectives when weather permits, but at other times will choose targets as 
stated above, which will bring fighters into the air.'' 

Spaatz had voiced this concept of targeting vital economic objectives to force 
Luftwaffe attrition almost two years earlier,36 and it remained one of his guiding 
principles throughout the war. 

On subsequent days Spaatz repeated to Hughes and to his operational com- 
manders, Anderson and Doolittle, that he considered his chief mission the 
destruction of the Luftwaffe and that he would not even wait for "proper 
weather [in which] to bomb the priority targets.''^? Spaatz's official "Opera- 
tional Directive" instructed Doolittle to hit the airframe factories and the 
German fighters "in the air and on the ground."38 On January 21, in the first of a 
weekly series of "Eyes Only" reports to Arnold, Spaatz optimistically wrote that 
he needed only a few days of visual bombing to wreck the remaining fighter and 
ball-bearing factories. Then, "all other attacks will be made on the basis of 
destroying enemy air force in air and on ground. Such attacks will be made so 
far as possible under conditions most favorable to ourselves and normally will 
be against objectives which force German fighters into combat action within 
range of our fighters."39 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

By late January, Spaatz had come to the realization that "we must continue 
to attrit the German Air Force on the ground whenever we can operate." In a let- 
ter to Arnold, Spaatz stated his policy: 

I feel you would become very impatient with me if this very large striking force 
spent most of its time on the ground or in training flights, waiting for the few 
days when visual bombing permits hitting our primary targets — ^the aircraft fac- 
tories. I also feel sure that to confine our operations to that alone would not 
deplete the German Air Force at the necessary rate.*" 

Neither Arnold nor Eaker, who had held similar views while leading the Eighth, 
disagreed with these sentiments. What made Spaatz's formulation unique was 
his insistence on attacking the Luftwaffe on the ground as well as in the air. 
Thanks to Spaatz's experience in Tunisia and particularly in Sicily, he had first- 
hand knowledge of the devastating effect of a prolonged counterair campaign on 
the Axis air force bases in the Mediterranean. Hundreds of German planes, 
many repairable, had littered Sicilian airfields and fallen into Allied hands. 
Spaatz reiterated this point to Arnold: "I feel personally that this matter of hit- 
ting airdromes from U.K. requires a shot in the arm, both as to methods of attack 
and frequency of attack. I believe that in our penetration into Germany that 
advantage must be taken of the use of intruder aircraft."4l Spaatz expressed sim- 
ilar views to the Assistant Secretary of War for Air, Robert A. Lovett: 

I believe that some of the methods applied in the Mediterranean are applicable 
here. . . . My tendency will be to place a little bit more emphasis upon swatting 
the enemy on his airdromes whenever possible and [on forcing] him to fight 
under conditions most advantageous to us."^ 

Spaatz also communicated this insistence on attacking the Luftwaffe before 
it could become airborne to Eisenhower and Tedder. On January 22, Spaatz dis- 
cussed his plans for USSTAF with Eisenhower. They were, first, to attack 
fighter and ball-bearing plants whenever conditions permitted visual bombings 
and, second, to attack "targets in Germany under conditions most favorable to 
obtain maximum destruction of German fighters in the air and on the ground. "43 
Later in the day Spaatz discussed his plans with Tedder. They "agreed that 
attacks so far on airdromes had been unfruitful here, possibly due to wrong 
method of attack."** 

By choosing to attack the Luftwaffe rather than to defend against it, Spaatz 
had found the way to break the German fighter force. After December 1943, the 
number of U.S. fighter aircraft on hand in fully operational tactical units dramat- 
ically increased. The AAF had the means as well as the method of taking the 
battle to the Luftwaffe.45 By April 1944, American fighter sweeps and intruder 
missions, which Spaatz and Doolittle had launched once they had sufficient 
long-range fighter aircraft, were disrupting all types of German air activity — 
trainee pilots could not even be assured of practicing in the air uiunolested. The 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

sweeps also caught many Geman night fighters and bombers on their fields. 

Fortune and the impatience of Arnold also favored Spaatz and Doolittle with 
the right man to command their fighters. In August 1943, Amold replaced the 
Commanding General of the VIII Fighter Command, Maj. Gen. Frank O'D. 
Hunter, with Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner. Hunter, in Arnold's opinion, had 
failed to fully support and understand the need for a long-range fighter pro- 
gram.46 Kepner, however, not only firmly believed in the feasibility of long- 
range fighter escort but had helped to push through the AAF's range extension 
program in the spring and summer of 1943.'*'? Kepner subsequently told an inter- 
viewer that until Spaatz and Doolittle arrived he had never had enough fighters 
to do other than "stick close to the bombers." Furthermore, even though he had 
wished to get the fighters out to scour the skies for German fighters, his superi- 
ors thought "that the time hadn't come to do that." As soon as Spaatz and 
Doolittle arrived, they had "directed that I take such steps as I felt necessary to 
lick the German Air Force. If it meant getting out and scouring the skies, even 
by thinning down the escort, that would be okay with them. ... It certainly 
wouldn't have been possible without their help."48 

As it had so often before, British signal intelligence greatly helped Spaatz 
accomplish his goals. By the time he arrived in London, Ultra intelligence 
intercepts indicated that fuel shortages and deficiencies in pilot training had 
akeady begun to impair the Luftwaffe's readiness. The Germans had reduced 
their number of reconnaissance flights and had called in test pilots and ferry 

The Luftwaffe Engaged 

pilots to operate fighters against U.S. daylight raids. In January Ultra revealed 
Hitler's orders to cut back Luftwaffe meteorological operations and shorten the 
recuperation period for wounded pilots. By February 6, Ultra supplied further 
evidence of a Luftwaffe comb-out of its noncombatants to provide pilots and to 
meet the needs of the land forces.49 The knowledge that the enemy's resources 
were becoming ever tauter must have added to Spaatz's determination to main- 
tain and increase the pressure on the foe. 

Spaatz knew that if enough Luftwaffe fighter planes went down, Germany 
could neither defend its industry nor contest the air over the beachhead. The 
requirements of both Pointblank and Overlord for air superiority necessitated 
knocking out the Luftwaffe by no later than May 1. Spaatz had 120 days in 
which to ruin the offensive power of a large, modem air force. 

An examination of the Eighth's first mission of the year, on January 11, 
proved typical of many of the missions of the next few weeks. Weather forecasters 
predicted clear weather over key aircraft plants at Oschersleben and Halberstadt 
and in the Brunswick area. The nature and location of these targets, some less than 
a hundred miles fi-om Berlin, aslsiued a heavy and active defense effort by the 
Luftwaffe. The Eighth's eleven groups of P-47s, joined by two groups of P-38s, 
provided cover from the Dutch coast to within fifty to seventy miles of the tar- 
gets. A lone P-51 group would escort the first of the bomber formations all the 
way to and from the target.^O 

As the heavy bombers left their bases in Britain, the weather deteriorated, 
making takeoff and assembly difficult. Nevertheless, 663 B-24s and B-17s left 
their fields. Weather continued to worsen, causing the 2d (B-24s) and 3d (B-17s 
and B-24s) Bombardment Divisions to abort their flights short of their primary 
targets. Instead, they bombed targets of opportunity in western Germany. The 
remaining 291 bombers hit their targets but suffered severely from fierce 
Luftwaffe reaction. Using improved tactics and fuel tanks developed in the sum- 
mer and fall of 1943, the German fighters waited until most of the escorts had 
left and then attacked the bombers. Forty-two American heavy bombers failed to 
return — 13 percent of the force engaged. All 44 American P-51s fought well, but 
weakened their effort by spreading themselves over too large an area in an 
attempt to defend the widely dispersed U.S. bomber formations. Even so, the 
P-51s were credited with more German aircraft kills than 177 P-47s which had 
escorted the bombers part of the way to the target area. Obviously, the Germans 
had been able to avoid the P-47s but not the P-51s,-''i but the P-51s also reached 
the initial rendezvous point too soon, and thus had insufficient fuel to cover the 
bombers on their return fi-om the targets to the P-47s and P-38s providing with- 
drawal escort. Meanwhile, the weather over England degraded further, and the 
returning 1st Bombardment Division planes had to land on unfamiliar runways 
belonging to the 2d and 3d Divisions. Subsequent air reconnaissance revealed 
that the plant at Oschersleben had suffered severe damage, and one of the 
Brunswick targets, Waggam, site of an aircraft production complex, had received 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Early model P-47s over England, summer 1943. 

direct hits on almost every one of its assembly piants.52 

Spaatz and Maj. Gen. Barney Criles, Chief of Staf¥ of the AAF, who had 
come to England to witness the birth of USSTAF, spent January II in the VIII 
Fighter Command operations room observing the mission. They shortly discov- 
ered for themselves another of the problems that had hampered Eaker— the need 
of AAF Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for favorable reports on the bomb- 
ing effort. The Eighth Air Force's report on the mission of January 1 1 was not 
released in Washington until the morning of January 13. In the meantime, U.S. 
newspapers, working on copy from London that was based on intercepts of 
German propaganda broadcasts, headlined stories in the evening editions of 
January 11 of "123 United States aircraft lost over Germany." The next day the 
press picked up German claims of 135 U.S. planes lost. The Eighth's statement, 
scheduled for 9 a.m. that day, did not appear, making it seem that the AAF had 
decided to conceal a disaster. 

When the Eighth's statement finally came out on January 13, the public, 
according to AAF headquarters, showed greater interest in the dispute over total 
losses than in the damage claims of the AAF. Brig. Gen. Laurence Kuter, acting 
as Arnold's representative, told Spaatz in a telephone conference, "We adjure 
that future initial releases will come as early as possible to avoid undisputed 
prominence in the U.S. press to items released by German radio." Kuter also 
"adjured" that future releases should contain graphic references to damage done 
rather than tales highlighting German fighter defenses. If Spaatz objected to 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

FlUing the jripeltaie: Replacement B-17s tar the ESghth Air Fmxx, Eng^d, March 1944. 

"needling" from Washington and wanted to avoid future "embarrassment," his 
reports had better get to Washington as quickly as possible.^^ 

The January 1 1 mission evoked an outburst from Arnold, who, angered by 
its negative coverage in the press, complained about the small number of 
bombers actually attacking signiHcant targets. He felt that the mission had jeop- 
ardized the entire principle of daylight bombing: "I cannot understand why with 
the great number of airplanes available in the Eighth Air Force, we continually 
have to send a boy to do a man's job. In my opinion, this is an uneconomical 
waste of lives and equipment." Although he realized that because of the recall, 
only forty-seven planes had bombed Brunswick, what deeply worried him was 
"the concept of small forces split up all over Europe instead of some good 
smashing blows." Instead of pecking away at the German aircraft industry, he 
asked, couldn't the AAF send out a really large number of aircraft and simply 
level a target? Arnold asked Spaatz for "some new thoughts and new lines of 
approach. "54 

For eighteen days after the January 1 1 mission, although high clouds or bad 
conditions over the bases prevented the bombing of Germany itself, USSTAF 
launched three missions against Crossbow installations. On January 21, Spaatz 
observed to Arnold, "Basically the principal enemy we face is weather."55 Two 
days later Spaatz wrote to Lovett: 

The weather here is the most discouraging of all factors and I am sure that it 
will result in the loss of remaining hairs on my head, or at least will turn what is 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

left of the red into white. Nothing is more exasperating than trying to run an Air 
Force continuously hampered or grounded by weather."'* 

On January 29 and 30, conditions over England improved enough to allow 

the dispatch of large missions against Frankfurt-am-Main (over 800 heavy 
bombers) and Brunswick. Unfortunately, both missions had to bomb through 
heavy overcast with the assistance of H2X. 

By the end of January 1944, little time remained before Pointblank's subor- 
dination to Overlord. Spaatz had at most two months to devote the full force of 
USSTAF to strategic objectives because by April 1, sixty days prior to the sched- 
uled launching of the cross-channel operation, the needs of the invasion would 
take primacy. On January 26, Spaatz wrote Eaker, "I have reviewed the problem 
of strategic bombing of our enemies, and the thing that has struck me most is the 
critical time factor. We have very little time in which to finish our job." 

On February 3, the Eighth sent more than 700 bombers in a pathfinder-led 
attack on Wilhelmshaven. Bad weather caused 100 of those bombers to abort 
and another 61 to bomb targets of opportunity in Emden. The next day, another 
pathfmder/bombing-through-clouds raid directed at Frankfurt-am-Main suffered 
from weather and navigational problems, and only 233 of 433 bombers sent out 
bombed their primary target. The remainder again bombed various targets of 
opportunity. This pattern, but on a lighter scale, continued until February 19.^7 

On February 17, Portal issued a new bombing directive to both Spaatz and 
Harris confirming target priorities agreed on in mid-January. The primary objec- 
tive remained the destruction of the Luftwaffe. Single- and twin-engine fighter 
airframe and airframe component production and Axis ball-bearing industry tar- 
gets were again accorded first priority; second priority went to installations sup- 
porting German fighter air forces and other objectives such as Crossbow, 
"Berlin and other industrial areas," and targets in southeastern Europe, such as 
cities and transportation targets. The plan further instructed Spaatz and Harris 
that preparation and readiness for the direct support of Overlord "should be 
maintained without detriment to the combined bomber offensive."58 

Two features of this directive are noteworthy: (1) as of mid-February, 
Pointblank still had priority over Overlord in strategic operations, and (2) 
Berlin was singled out for special attention. This mention of Berlin, in part, was 
an ex post facto authorization of Harris' Battle of Berlin begun in November 
1943. But the directive also specifically authorized area attacks by U.S. forces 
on the German capital and any other German city within range: 

Attacks should be delivered upon Berlin or other important industrial areas by 
both Bomber Command R.A.F. and U.S.S.A.F.E. (latter using blind bombing 
technique as necessary) whenever weather or tactical conditions are suitable for 
such operations and unsuitable for operations against the primary objective. 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

Leigh-Mallory and the AEAF 

During January, Spaatz had to deal with the frustrations created by the con- 
fused Allied command structure as well as those caused by nature. Eisenhower, 
as the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force (SCAEF), commanded 
all military forces directly assigned to the cross-channel invasion. Tedder was 
Deputy Supreme Commander. Under them came Admiral Berthram H. Ramsey, 
Naval Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force; Air Chief Marshal Trafford 
Leigh-Mallory, Commander in Chief, Allied Expeditionary Air Force; and 
General Bernard L. Montgomery, Commander, 21 Army Group. Montgomery's 
army group, composed of the British 2d Army under Lt. Gen. Miles Dempsey 
and the U.S. First Army under Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, would conduct the 
ground assault. After Montgomery had established and enlarged the beachhead, 
the Allies would create additional Commonwealth and American armies, where- 
upon Bradley would form an ail-American army group (the 12th). Bradley's first 
additional army would be the U.S. Third Army under the redoubtable Lt. Gen. 
George S. Patton. 

Each of the service components of the Allied Expeditionary Force had a 
clearly defined mission. The naval forces would convoy amphibious assault 
troops to Normandy, prevent German naval interference (minimal at best), keep 
the seaborne supply lines to France open, and provide naval gunfire support to 
the troops. The 21 Army Group would force its way ashore, form and expand a 
beachhead, and, after a few weeks, break out of the beachhead and begin an 
offensive across France and as far as necessary into Germany to defeat the Third 
Reich. The AEAF would maintain air supremacy over the invasion convoys, the 
beachhead, and subsequent operations of the ground forces. It would further 
interfere with and delay as far as possible the movement of German reinforce- 
ments toward the beachhead, would transport and supply the airborne assault 
forces, and would provide necessary air support for the ground forces. (See 
Chart 5, Chain of Command, Allied Expeditionary Force, February 13, 1944.) 

To accomplish his mission Leigh-Mallory had two Allied air forces assigned 
to his operational control, the British 2d Tactical Air Force under Air Marshal 
Arthur Coningham and the U.S. Ninth Air Force commanded by Maj. Gen. 
Lewis Brereton. Coningham's force consisted of three groups: the newly formed 
No. 83 and No. 84 Groups made up of fighters and fighter-bombers taken from 
Fighter Command, reconnaissance aircraft acquired from the dissolution of 
Army Co-operation Command, and No. 2 Group of light bombers and Mosquito 
Intruder aircraft transferred from Bomber Command. These transfers consimied 
two-thirds of Fighter Command, which received the new designation, Air 
Defence of Great Britain (ADGB). Leigh-Mallory also retained his responsibili- 
ties for the home defenses, and the new chief of ADGB, Air Marshal Roderic M. 
Hill, reported directly to him.59 

Brereton's air force consisted of three components: IX Fighter Command 



Chain of Command, Allied Expeditionary Force 
February 13, 1944 

U.S. Chiefs of staff 


British Chiefs of Staff 





Commander In Chief 

Allied Naval 
Expeditionary Force 

U.S. Army 
Group Commander 

U.S. Naval Force 

British Naval Force 

British Army 
Group Commander 

Commander in Chief 
Allied Expeditionary 
Air Force 


U.S. Tactical 
Air Force 

Tactical Air Force 

The Luftwaffe Engaged 

(Maj. Gen. Elwood P. Quesada commanding), IX Bomber Command (Maj. Gen. 
Samuel E. Anderson commanding), and IX Troop Carrier Command (Maj. Gen. 
Paul L. Williams commanding), plus assorted service and antiaircraft troops. The 
IX Fighter Command had two subordinate units: DC Air Support Command would 
work with U.S. First Army, while XIX Air Support Command would assist U.S. 
Third Arniy. The medium and light bombers of IX Bomber Command could aid 
either support group or perform other tasks required by the theater. The IX 
Transport Command would supply theater air transport requirements and provide 
all airlift needed for U.S. airborne operations. (Under Allied agreements, IX 
Transport Command would provide a substantial portion of British combat airlift as 
well.) The chief function of the Ninth Air Force was to give air support to U.S. 
ground forces participating in the Overlord invasion. Thus Brereton was the 
American airman responsible to, not under the direct command of, Bradley, the 
overall U.S. ground force commander. Although the Ninth would have eight 
medium-bomber, three light-bomber, fourteen transport, and eighteen fighter 
groups by invasion day, in mid- January 1944 the Ninth had only five groups — ^four 
of medium bombers transferred from the Eighth Air Force and one of P-5 1 fighters. 

What confused Allied command arrangements was not the organization of 
the expeditionary force, but the role Spaatz's USSTAF and the large RAF 
metropolitan commands (Fighter, Coastal, and Bomber) would play in support- 
ing the invasion. It would take three months to arrive at a solution that was 
barely satisfactory. At the beginning of 1944, Leigh-Mallory assumed that these 
forces would to a great extent come under his control. This assumption met stiff 
resistance from the independent air leaders, in particular Spaatz and Air Officer 
Commanding, Bomber Command, Arthur Harris. In addition, the Ninth Air 
Force, more than twice the strength of the British 2d Tactical Air Force, served 
two masters: Leigh-Mallory had operational control, but Spaatz had administra- 
tive control. Because the two men had very different missions and irreconcilable 
conceptions about the correct employment of the Ninth, this dual control soon 
led to discord. 

At first glance Leigh-Mallory seemed a sound choice as Commander in Chief, 
Allied Expeditionary Air Force. He had specialized in army cooperation (that part 
of the RAF assigned to supporting the ground forces) and in the offensive use of 
fighter aircraft. In World War I he had served as an army cooperation pilot and, 
by 1927, he had become Commandant, RAF School of Army Cooperation.^ 
Shortly before World War II he transferred to Fighter Command and led No. 12 
Group, which defended the Midlands in the Battle of Britain. At the very end of 
the battle he replaced Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, a defensive fighter expert, 
as Commander, No. 1 1 Group, which defended London and southeastern 
Britain. At that point the RAF switched to the offensive, carrying the air cam- 
paign to the Germans with fighter sweeps over France.61 

Eventually Leigh-Mallory became Air Officer Commanding, Fighter 
Command and, in November 1943, he officially gained his post as head of the 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

AEAF. His name had been mentioned in connection with such posts as early as 
the summer of 1942, when the British had begun to plan the rearrangement of 
their air commands for future large-scale ground operations in France. On March 
11, 1943, Leigh-Mailory learned privately, from Portal, of his selection as Com- 
mander in Chief, AlUed Air Force (Designate), by the British Chiefs of Staff and 
its approval in principle by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca. By the 
end of June 1943, the CCS had authorized him to begin discussing air matters 
with Overlord's plaimers. On August 20, he was recognized as interim head of 
the AEAF, but he still had no directive on operations from the CCS.62 

A closer look at Leigh-Mallory reveals weaknesses that hampered his ability 
to participate in coalition warfare. He has been described "as a man of driving 
egoism," with a habitually haughty manner63 and "an assertive temperament."64 
Even his apologists admit that he "was so typically English, [and] sometimes 
tactless, almost pompous in appearance and naive in character without any 
finesse, that it certainly was difficult for the Americans to assess his ability, and 
they did little to try to understand him."65 Once Leigh-Mallory absorbed an idea 
it became almost immutable.66 This characteristic proved a grave defect, not 
because he adopted impractical ideas but because he defended his own beliefs 
with an uncompromising ferocity and thus exasperated his opponents. 

During the Battle of Britain he engaged in a heated controversy with Air 
Vice-Marshal Keith Park, Commander, No. 1 1 Group, and Air Chief Marshal 
Hugh Dowding, Air Officer Commanding, Fighter Command, over the proper 
employment of fighters. Leigh-Mallory favored launching a large force, assem- 
bling it in the air, and using it all at once against the enemy. The problem was 
that by the time this "big wing" had assembled, the German raiders, as often as 
not, had delivered their bombs. Nonetheless, Leigh-Mallory stubbornly refused 
to change his tactics. In fact, Dowding had resolved to remove Leigh-Mallory, 
but before he could act, was removed by Churchill. 6V Dowding's abrupt replace- 
ment by Sholto Douglas and Park's replacement by Leigh-Mallory offended 
many of Fighter Command's senior officers. Likewise, Leigh-Mallory 's obdu- 
rate adherence to his own strong ideas about air preparations for Overlord 
would intensify his conflict with other air leaders. 

Leigh-Mallory had little gift for interpersonal relationships. Not only did his 
dispute with Dowding and Park worsen, but, after his elevation to the AEAF, he 
did not get along with his American deputies, Vandenberg and Brig. Gen. 
Frederic H. Smith,68 or with his subordinate air force commanders Air Marshal 
"Mary" Coningham and Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton.^^ The fates had dealt 
unkindly with Leigh-Mallory in supplying his associates. He and Tedder differed 
in personality, experience, and outlook. Without his knowledge, Leigh-Mallory's 
appointee as the head of the 2d Tactical Air Force, Air Marshal J. H. D'Albiac, 
was replaced by Tedder with Coningham. At the time, Leigh-Mallory assumed 
that Montgomery had consented to this change, but, in fact, Montgomery would 
have picked any au- leader over Coningham. Then, the Commander of No. 83 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

Group, the fighter and fighter-bomber group assigned to cooperate with the British 
2d Army, was replaced with Air Vice-Marshal Harry Broadhurst at Montgomery's 
insistence. Leigh-Mallory assumed that Coningham approved of this move, but in 
fact Coningham would have picked any air leader over Broadhurst. Neither 
Broadhurst nor Coningham had much use for Leigh-Mallory.^o 

Nor did Spaatz and other American airmen view him without suspicion."? l 
They mistook his natural reserve for hostility and were put off by his somewhat 
ponderous and inarticulate speech.72 In general, they returned his abrupmess in 
kind. Leigh-Mallory 's first American deputy. Brig. Gen. Haywood S. Hansell, 
was a highly regarded officer and a personal friend of Spaatz, but was promoted 
by Arnold and sent to the Pacific to begin B-29 operations. It might have been 
better for all concerned if he had stayed in London. Leigh-Mallory 's second 
American deputy, Maj. Gen. William O. Butler, lacking the dynamic personality 
necessary to attract and keep high-quality American staff officers, did not help 
his chief. The American contingent at AEAF Headquarters needed high-quality 
officers to counterbalance domination by Leigh-Mallory 's appointments from 
Fighter Command. The staffing of AEAF Headquarters called for 150 RAF offi- 
cers and 80 AAF officers. Butler had purposely kept the American contingent 
small and did not even intend to use all of his authorized billets.73 At one point 
Eisenhower even suggested that Butler be replaced with the more forceful Maj. 
Gen. Frederick L. Anderson.74 

Air Vice-Marshal Harry 
Broadhurst, Air OfOcer 
Commanding, No. 38 
Group, RAF, 1944. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

AEAF Headquarters remained an essentially British organization throughout 
its existence, which gave the AAF additional reason to view it with suspicion.75 
The Americans either did not understand or refused to acknowledge that Leigh- 
Mallory had such a large British staff because he also served as Air Officer 
Commanding the home defenses. If his British staff had merely been equal in 
number to the American staff assigned to Headquarters, AEAF, it would have 
been vastly overburdened^^ 

Spaatz's and Leigh-Malloiy's disparate personalities added a note of personal 
acrimony to their differences, but their widely divergent views on the employ- 
ment of air power and of the place of air power in the command structure of the 
Allied invasion force would have brought the two men into conflict in almost any 
case. The gulf between the two became apparent at their meeting of January 3 on 
plans for Overlord. Spaatz noted in his diary, "Am not sure whether L-M 
[Leigh-Mallory] has proper conception of air role. Apparently accepts possibility 
of not establishing Air supremacy until landing starts."'^'^ Spaatz believed that 
delaying the battle for air supremacy until the invasion would be too late not only 
for the invasion but for the bomber offensive as well. Spaatz believed that the 
Luftwaffe had to be crushed as soon as possible. If Allied air forces had to fight 
for supremacy over the beaches, they could provide no support for the ground 
forces and might not be able to provide air cover for the invasion fleet; paratroop 
drops could not be guaranteed without air supremacy. 

In contrast, Leigh-Mallory 's perspective came from his four years' experi- 
ence in successfully defending against Luftwaffe attacks. Since 1941, the Germans 
had refused to engage in daylight combat with Fighter Command, and Fighter 
Command, with its short-range defensive flghters, could not force the Germans 
to fight if they chose not to. Leigh-Mallory welcomed the thought that the 
Germans would once more have to fly into territory he defended. 

A few days later, Spaatz and Overlord's planners, including Leigh-Malloiy 
and Lt. Gen. F. E. Morgan, the head of the Allied plannmg group that had drawn 
up the original plans for the invasion, clashed over command prerogatives. 
Morgan and Leigh-Mallory, who at this stage regarded himself as the commander 
in chief of all Allied air power necessary for the invasion, which included 
USSTAF,78 insisted that three American P-38 long-range fighter groups move 
from the Mediterranean to Britain to help provide air cover. Spaatz objected on the 
dual grounds that only he, and not the Allied planning staff, had the authority to 
order such a move, and that he would not strip the Fifteenth Air Force of its 
escorts and, in the process, weaken it and Pointblank for an unnecessary fight 
over the beachhead. Spaatz pointed out to Butler that the matter concerned neither 
Morgan nor Leigh-Mallory and that the decision rested entirely with him.79 
Morgan appealed to Eisenhower in Washington. 

Eisenhower had not yet arrived in London to take up his new command and, 
at Marshall's insistence, he had returned to the States for rest and consultation 
with the Army Staff. Eisenhower, who had his own ideas about the air situation. 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

apparently backed Spaatz, for the three groups stayed permanently in the 
Mediterranean. Marshall, too, clarified the matter in a January 15 message to 
Spaatz and Morgan in which he confirmed that Spaatz alone had the authority to 
transfer USSTAF units.80 

By the time Eisenhower arrived in London on January 16, air command 
arrangements in the British Isles had become a veritable Gordian knot, and the 
Supreme Commander seemed as confused as anyone. When he had originally 
learned of his selection in early December 1943, Eisenhower had requested that 
Tedder, whom he intended to install as his commander in chief for air, be trans- 
ferred at the same time. On December 17, Eisenhower had written to Marshall, 

We would go into the operation with an operational organization set up largely 
according to the one we now have here [The Mediterranean]. Tedder would be 
my chief air man and with him I would have Spaatz who would have control of 
the Strategic Air Forces. Under Tedder will be one officer in charge of coordi- 
nating the tactical air forces." 

Two weeks later, after receiving a message from Bedell Smith, who had 
already become alarmed at the fuzziness of command arrangements, Eisenhower 
sent a message to Marshall: "I have received information from Genera! Smith in 
London that is disturbing in its implication. He states that the British Chiefs of 
Staff have forwarded to the American Chiefs of Staff a paper which proposes 
that the Combined Chiefs of Staff shall dictate in detail the organization of tacti- 
cal air forces for Overlord. "82 

Eisenhower objected strongly, asking Marshall to employ his full authority 
to oppose the scheme. He also pointed out that he and other veterans of the 
Mediterranean had learned several hard lessons in air power, which he did not 
want thrown away by "rigid directives." Eisenhower particularly objected to a 
proposal for two separate tactical air forces: "I simply cannot conceive of such 
an idea." He had come a long way from the general who had condoned the 
parceling out of air power in Tunisia. Eisenhower continued, "I hear that 
Tedder, who 1 have assumed to be my chief air man, is really intended to be an 
officer without portfolio, and that a man named Mallory is to be my chief air 
man. "83 Eisenhower did not object to Leigh-Mallory, whose qualifications as a 
fighter expert, he thought, would be most useful at critical stages of the cam- 
paign. What he resented was his being unable to use Tedder as he wanted 
because of high-level British interference.84 

After meetings with Marshall and Arnold in Washington, Eisenhower 
warned Bedell Smith on January 5 that he anticipated trouble in securing the 
necessary approval for the integration of all forces essential to the success of the 
cross-channel invasion. Eisenhower noted, "I suspect that the use of these air 
forces for the necessary preparatory phase will be particularly resisted. To sup- 
port our position it is essential that a complete plan for use of all available air- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

craft during this phase be ready as quickly as possible." Eisenhower therefore 
requested that Tedder proceed to London at once and consult with Spaatz and 
others on the plan.85 

Eisenhower assumed that the British would object to having their metropoli- 
tan air forces, particularly Bomber and Coastal Commands, placed under the 
operational control of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air 
Force. Nevertheless, he intended to ensure the employment of every resource, 
including all air power in Britain, to achieve the ultimate success of his mission. 
After their Stateside meeting, Eisenhower knew he had Arnold's backing. 
Arnold confirmed that both USSTAF and Bomber Command should be placed 
directly under the Supreme Commander for the "impending operation." Arnold 
made clear his support, saying, "It is my desire to do all that is possible here to 
further the simultaneous transfer of these two strategic bombing organizations 
from their present status to your command when you feel this transfer should 
take place."86 

Spaatz and Eisenhower agreed that USSTAF must come under the operational 
control of the Supreme Commander. In December, when they both had learned of 
their new appointments, Spaatz fully expected to be under Eisenhower's com- 
mand at least sixty days before the invasion. All subsequent disputes over prein- 
vasion preparations concerned the place and use of strategic bombers under 
Eisenhower, not the basic principle that the invasion required the support of heavy 
bombers to succeed. In fact, during the initial phases of organizing USSTAF, 
Spaatz told the Chief of Staff of the AAF in Washington, Maj. Gen. Barney Giles, 
that Eisenhower had learned through Marshall that USSTAF would not be under 
him operationally. Spaatz, believed that it should be under Eisenhower both 
administratively and operationally. Giles agreed that Spaatz and Eisenhower 
would be left to settle command arrangements between themselves.^'^ 

In the afternoon of Eisenhower's first day of work as Supreme Commander, 
January 17, he and Spaatz met. Eisenhower admitted that he had received no 
clarification of the "present confused air situation" while in Washington.** Both 
agreed to soft-pedal any dramatic action and to proceed with the current cumber- 
some arrangements. Eisenhower directed his chief of staff immediately to publish 
an order giving Spaatz administrative responsibility for all U.S. air units in the 
theater. He also approved the plan to place his own headquarters at Widewings, 
Bushy Park, putting himself and Tedder near USSTAF Headquarters.89 

On January 22, Spaatz and Tedder discussed air command assignments. 
They both believed that their old Mediterranean methods would serve admirably 
for Operation Overlord; Tedder should preside over a joint command post, and 
RAF Bomber Command, the Eighth Air Force, and the tactical air forces should 
all have representatives present at daily meetings held in USSTAF' S War Room. 
These flexible proposals so pleased Spaatz that he told Tedder that all he needed 
to know was what to hit and when.90 On January 24, both confirmed this prelim- 
inary discussion and agreed that the "operation must be conducted the same as 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

in the Mediterranean area, no matter what type of organization was directed by 

While Spaatz and Eisenhower sought to pin down USSTAF'S place in the 
command structure, Arnold, Portal, Spaatz, and others simultaneously tried to 
define its immediate objectives. The Eighth Air Force had not received a new 
bombing directive from Portal since the implementation of Pointblank in June 
1943. The advent of USSTAF, the imminence of the invasion, and the effec- 
tiveness of the Luftwaffe fighter defenses all indicated the necessity of a new 
directive. After initial proposals had passed back and forth across the Atlantic, 
Spaatz, Portal, Harris, Air Vice-Marshal Norman H. Bottomley (Deputy Chief 
of the Air Staff), Air Marshal Douglas Evill (Vice-Chief of the Air Staff), and 
Leigh-Mallory met on January 19 to hammer out a modified bombing directive. 
Targets and priorities remained unaltered. Coordination of effort between the 
Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, between the Eighth Air Force and Bomber 
Command, and between the strategic and tactical air forces in the Me- 
diterranean could continue as presently constituted. They also chose to continue 
to have Portal coordinate between the tactical and strategic air forces in 
England. This later decision was made over Spaatz's objections. He advocated, 
instead, an overall air command under the Supreme Allied Commander as a 
necessary condition "for efficient operations in preparation for conduct of 
Overlord. "92 This suggestion met the united opposition of the British, who 
had rejected similar actions of the AAF at the Cairo Conference. The RAF 
would not countenance any arrangement that might subordinate it to the AAF. 
Eisenhower, with his usual political acumen, realized this fact and struck the 
suggestion from Spaatz's report to Arnold.93 He counseled Spaatz to drop the 
idea, observing that "the political situation would not permit an over-all air 
commander at this time." Eisenhower told Spaatz that he did not require a des- 
ignated overall commander; all that he required was that operational control of 
all air power, at the proper time for Overlord, "be assured by a single air com- 
mander." Spaatz admitted that USSTAF could fulfill its functions without an 
overall air commander, but he believed that its lack might jeopardize the ulti- 
mate success of the invasion.94 

Thus, by the end of January, Spaatz had reaffirmed his personal and USSTAF's 
organizational commitment to placing control of the AAF's heavy bombers in 
the hands of the commander of the forces assaulting the Continent. This com- 
mitment did not mean that he had abdicated his position as the chief proponent 
in England of strategic daylight precision bombing; rather, it meant that, in prac- 
tice, he would employ those techniques in the way that he thought could most 
effectively contribute to the invasion as a first priority. Spaatz did not abandon 
the theory that air power alone could bring about the defeat of Germany, but, as 
a good soldier, he meant to do all in his power to guarantee the fulfillment of 
Overix)RD's objectives. He noted with resignation in his diary: 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Launching of Overlord will result in the calling off of bomber effort on 
Germany proper from one to two months prior to invasion. If time is as now 
contemplated, there will be no opportunity to carry out any Air operations of 
sufficient intensity to justify the theory that Germany can be knocked out by 
Air power. . . . Operations in connection with Overlord will be child's play 
compared to present operations and should result in very minor losses.'' 

The still unsettled air command arrangement!? prevailing in late January and 
in February complicated operations in no small measure. The Ninth Air Force 
was having difficulty dividing its resources to assist the Eighth's strategic mis- 
sion, as it was obligated to, while it carried out its own tactical responsibilities. 
This difficulty would not be easily overcome. Also, the assignment of early- and 
late-model P-51s between the two air forces' fighter groups, originally decided 
by General Baker in 1943, was a matter of growing concern. Eaker had sent 
most of them to the Ninth Air Force because of their abilities as fighter-bombers. 
Early model P-51s were limited by their relatively short range. (The P-51 had 
fought in Africa as the A-36 and had formed fighter-bomber groups assigned to 
the Northwest African Tactical Air Force.) Wheri drop tanks, improved internal 
fuel tanks, and other modifications vastly increased the later model's tactical 
radius of operations and combat ceiling, it became the strategic escort fighter par 
excellence of World War 11. 

Spaatz thus believed that the late-model P-51s' newfound capabilities as 
escorts far outweighed their capabilities as ground-support fighters, and he felt 
justified in questioning the way the aircraft had been allocated between the 
Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. He had the authority, through enabling directives, 
to order the transfer of aircraft and personnel as he wished, but because the 
transfer of the P-51s to the Eighth Air Force would^affect the operations of the 
Ninth, he was required to consult with Leigh-Mallory. 

On January 20, Spaatz discussed his decision to move the P-51s first with 
General Brereton, the Ninth's commander, who objected to it, and then at a 
meeting with Brereton, Tedder, Leigh-Mallory, Doolittle, and Kepner, Com- 
mander, VIII Fighter Command. Spaatz overrode Brereton's protests, declaring 
that the P-51s were "absolutely essential throughout all operations to cover the 
bombers in deep penetration."^^ On January 24, the generals finally accepted 
Spaatz's compromise proposal; of the nine P-51 groups scheduled for the 
European Theater of Operations, the Eighth would get seven and the Ninth 
would retain two. Spaatz commented in his diary, "Leigh-Mallory 's attitude in 
this was surprising to me, since after hearing arguments on both sides, he agreed 
to P-5 1 's going to Eighth Air Force, based on over-all situations.''^? 

Leigh-Mallory proved less amenable in matters involving the Ninth Air 
Force's participation in strategic bombing missions. Strategic missions consisted 
of much more than simply flying the heavy bombers and escorts to their objec- 
tives and retuming them. Punishing the Luftwaffe as well as destroying targets 
required large-scale assistance from the Ninth. The Ninth's fighter-bombers and 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

medium bombers would fly diversionary raids or strike Luftwaffe fighter fields 
in missions timed to coincide with the takeoff, assembly, and landing of 
Luftwaffe defensive fighter forces. In addition, the Ninth's formations would 
help to confuse German fighter controllers by cluttering up the early warning 
system with hundreds of additional planes. 

Spaatz called these coordinated strikes "absolutely essential" to the maxi- 
mum protection of heavy-bomber formations and the destruction of the 
Luftwaffe. Spaatz took note of the fact that in two major operations at the end of 
January no medium bombers had supported strategic strikes. They bombed 
Crossbow (V-1 launch sites in France) targets for which Leigh-Mallory, in his 
purely British capacity as head of Air Defense of Great Britain, had prime 
responsibility. This situation appeared to Spaatz to be symptomatic of the prob- 
lems the AAF would confront "if and when" USSTAF came under Leigh- 
Mallory's control. "Leigh-Mallory's concern with what is in front of him," said 
Spaatz "may hamper Pointblank Operations."98 

Spaatz, supported by his Deputy for Operations, Maj. Gen. Frederick L. 
Anderson, continued to press for clarification of control over the Ninth Air Force 
during strategic missions. On February 4, Anderson, Brig. Gen. Earle E. 
Partridge (Deputy Commander, Eighth Air Force), and Maj. Gen. William E. 
Kepner (Commander, VIII Fighter Command) representing the Strategic Air 
Forces, met with Leigh-Mallory, his British deputy (Air Vice-Marshal Arthur 
Saunders), Maj. Gen. W. Butler (his American deputy from the AEAF), Maj. 
Gen. L. H. Brereton (Commander, Ninth Air Force), Brig. Gen. Elwood R. 
Quesada (Commander, IX Fighter Command), and Brig. Gen. Samuel E. 
Anderson (Commander, IX Bomber Command-Medium). Leigh-Mallory 
opened the meeting by observing that the AEAF had done all that USSTAF 
required. Anderson expressed USSTAF's view that "the Mediums were not pay- 
ing their way; that they should extend their operating range to the maximum 
which is, at present, 350 miles; that this should be done at least a couple of times 
beyond fighter escort, if necessary to ascertain the Hun reaction." 

This statement reflected both Anderson's and Spaatz 's determination to 
bloody the Luftwaffe, whatever their own losses. Leigh-Mallory responded that 
sending a portion of the medium bombers against the Eighth's targets while 
reserving the remainder for Crossbow attacks might satisfy strategic require- 
ments. Anderson insisted that the Eighth's missions required maximum 
medium-bomber support and that experience had shown that Crossbow bomb- 
ing produced unsatisfactory diversionary raids. Although Leigh-Mallory indi- 
cated that he would ask Portal for a final determination, he compromised by 
issuing the medium bombers additional targets to support the Eighth's efforts. 
Anderson, in turn, reaffirmed the Eighth Air Force's commitment to Crossbow 
when weather over Germany made strikes there impossible.99 

Leigh-Mallory's appeal to Portal proved futile. Portal, after receiving Leigh- 
Mallory's brief and one from Spaatz, supported by Arnold, voted in the latter's 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

M^j. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson, Deputy for Operations, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in 
Europe, conferring with meteorologists on weatlier conditions over various targets. 

favor. On February 15, he wrote to Spaatz, "I have had the various directives 
looked up and it seems quite clear that A.C.M. Leigh-Mallory is bound by his 
directive (COSSAC [43] 81 dated 16 November 1943) to lend maximum sup- 
port to the strategic air offensive. ""^ Portal added that Leigh-Mallory owed 
support to the Eighth not only in visual but in overcast conditions; furthermore, 
Leigh-Mallory 's own directives to the Ninth Air Force and the British 2d 
Tactical Air Force gave priority to support of the Eighth's operations over all 
others. Finally, Portal required Leigh-Mallory to add to his target lists of air- 
fields all of those designated by USSTAF.lOl 

On February 19, the day before the great week-long USSTAF attack on 
Germany subsequently known as "Big Week", Spaatz, having already bested 
Leigh-Mallory, clipped Brereton's wings as well. Brereton, who had visions of a 
Ninth Air Force independent of both USSTAF and the AEAF,102 and his chief 
of staff. Brig. Gen. V. H. Strahm, met with Spaatz, Anderson, and Doolittle to 
discuss the "use of 9th Air Force Fighters with the 8th Air Force." Brereton 
"agreed" that (1) IX Fighter Command would inform Vlll Fighter Command 
daily of planes available; (2) VIII Fighter Command would issue "Primary" 
[emphasis in original] field orders giving specific jobs by time and group 
assigned to IX Fighter Command; and (3) whenever the effort might be delayed 
by transmitting orders through Ninth Air Force channels, VIII Fighter Command 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

could deal directly with Ninth Air Force wing commanders after or immediately 
before takeoff. 103 

In case Brereton retained any illusions of independence, Spaatz followed up 
this meeting with an official letter stating, "The Commanding General, USSTAF, 
will exercise control of all administrative and training matters pertaining to the 
Ninth Air Force and will assume direct responsibility to higher headquarters for 
the proper performance of those functions."104 Because Spaatz's administrative 
control of the Ninth and Eighth Air Forces in England included the power of 
promotion, he held the whip hand over any U.S. officer who desired to advance 
his career. 

Of course, Leigh-Mallory and Brereton saw Spaatz as a "noncooperator" 
with preinvasion tactical air plans. Both men had been charged with fielding air 
forces trained in close air support. They could not do so as long as Spaatz 
insisted that they devote maximum effort to supporting Pointblank. As usual, 
when training demands and operational necessity clashed, the immediate needs 
of the active forces at the front took precedence. Spaatz was destroying air- 
planes, killing German pilots, and bombing factories while the tactical airmen 
wanted to conduct training exercises. 

"Big Week" 

The final settlement of the Ninth's role came at a most opportune moment. 
On February 19, 1944, USSTAF's weather forecasters predicted an event 
eagerly awaited by the American heavy-bomber leaders in Europe: the breaking 
up of the cloud cover over central Europe for an extended period. Headquarters, 
USSTAF, ordered Operation Argument to begin the next day. This operation, 
planned since early November 1943, called for a series of combined attacks by 
the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces against the Combined Bomber Offensive's 
highest-priority objectives. During these attacks, RAF Bomber Command 
agreed to make night area bombing attacks on the same targets. (See Map 8, 
Greater German Air Industry Targets.) 

Because the attacks called for a joint effort by both of its component air 
forces. Headquarters, USSTAF, departed from its normal supervisory and pol- 
icy-making activities to take direct responsibility for mounting operations. 
Accordingly, as a courtesy to his old friend, Spaatz alerted Eaker* first rather 
than Twining, Fifteenth Air Force Commander, of the impending implementa- 
tion of Argument, requesting that forces bomb the Regensburg and Augsburg 
aircraft assembly plants or the ball-bearing works at Stuttgart. Spaatz also 

* Although he was Commander of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (Twelfth U.S. Air Force 
and British 1st Tactical Air Force), Eaker had only administrative, not operational, control over the 
Fifteenth. Spaatz, however, always treated Eaker as if the latter had operational control of the 
Fifteenth, in effect making a new line of command. 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

directed that "All forces of the 15th Air Force should use an area attack on 
Breslau as their secondary mission."i05 He thus demonstrated his willingness to 
countenance area bombing if it furthered a legitimate military objective. The 
simultaneous attack by the Fifteenth's twelve heavy-bomber groups and four 
fighter groups, or even a diversionary attack on Breslau, the alternative target, 
would prevent some of the German defenders from concentrating on the Eighth 
as it came from England and give it a better chance of successful bombing. 

Eaker informed Spaatz that the Fifteenth could not fly its scheduled strategic 
mission because he had committed it to the tactical support of the Anzio beach- 
head, where a German counterattack had come dangerously close to driving the 
Allies into the sea. Eaker believed that if the Fifteenth did not support Anzio, the 
Allied theater commander, British General James Maitland Wilson, might declare 
the situation a ground emergency and exercise his right to take direct control of 
the Fifteenth from USSTAF for the duration of the critical situation. Eaker 
wished to avoid that declaration because it would rob him of all flexibility and 
establish a troublesome precedent. Eaker also objected because his weather fore- 
casters had predicted overcast skies covering the Fifteenth's targets. The Fif- 
teenth, which lacked H2X equipment, could not bomb them effectively. 106 

Spaatz disagreed. Pointblank, too, had reached a climactic stage. He and 
Anderson had previously agreed to accept extraordinary risks to ensure the com- 
pletion of Argument prior to March 1, even if it meant the loss of 200 bombers 
in a single mission. 107 Spaatz went to Portal with a draft telegram for Eaker that 
read, in part, "Because of critical status of Pointblank, it is absolutely neces- 
sary that we make our maximum effort under visual conditions. Eighth Air 
Force will attack targets as indicated. Therefore, I believe it essential that the 
maximum heavy effort possible be used in southern Germany for diversionary 
purposes. "108 Spaatz went on to request that at least some of the Fifteenth's 
planes fly against their proposed targets or Breslau as a secondary target. Portal, 
after consulting Churchill, who ruled that all available forces should support the 
Anzio battle, told Spaatz that he could not agree to the transmission of such a 
cable to Eaker. Spaatz agreed to cancel the message. 109 

The failure to obtain the use of the Fifteenth added to the tension at Spaatz's 
headquarters on the night of February 19-20. Even as the Lancaster heavy 
bombers of RAF Bomber Command mounted a heavy strike over Leipzig, one of 
the Eighth's principal targets for the next day, Spaatz's subordinates debated the 
wisdom of following up the RAF's effort with a Sunday punch. The meteorolo- 
gists of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces had conducted their own auguries and 
arrived at a forecast less sanguine than USSTAF's. DooUttle and Brereton there- 
fore doubted the feasibility of a large-scale raid for the next day. no Kepner 
believed that expected conditions would produce icing on the wings of his fight- 
ers, cutting the efficiency of the P-38s in half and lowering the efficiency of his 

The P-38, on which great hopes rested, was beginning to prove itself unsuited 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

for operations over Europe. Its engines reacted badly to the combination of 
extreme cold and high humidity encountered in winter operations. On February 
17, VIII Fighter Command reported that 40 percent of its P-38 force was 
affected by engine trouble. 1 12 in all, more than half of all P-38 losses in the the- 
ater were attributable to engine malfunction.! '3 

Anderson vehemently opposed the naysayers. As each call came in from the 
Eighth or Ninth, he encouraged Spaatz to continue the operation. 114 Anderson 
tenaciously scrambled to maintain the viability of the mission throughout the 
long night. Anderson's deputy, also present that night at Park House, described 
the scene: 

Anderson prepared to stay the night because he knew that he must be there, by 
the telephone, knowing that in all military operations there was the chance of 
something uncontrolled going on and the whole thing fizzling out and being a 
catastrophe, and he was determined to keep the mission on. He knew also that 
the public reaction to the possible loss of 200 bombers would be very strong, 
even though the mission was a success."' 

To Anderson's deputy Spaatz seemed "on the fence" and less strongly commit- 
ted to the launch. 

That view misinterprets Spaatz 's position or, at least, his style of connmand. 
Spaatz allowed his subordinates wide latitude and encouraged them to state their 
opinions. Until the decision had to be made in the early morning, he would natu- 
rally have listened carefully to both sides. Nor should silence on his part be con- 
strued as waffling. Never a garrulous man, in times of stress Spaatz kept a poker 
face and retreated into quiet. The decision rested squarely on his shoulders. Brig. 
Gen. C. P. Cabell, formerly Commander of the 45th Bomb Wing but at that time 
serving on Spaatz's staff and present at Park House, told Brig. Gen. Haywood S. 

Finally, when the last moment for action had arrived, the decision was left in the 
lap of General Spaatz. The risks were so great and the conditions so unfavorable 
that none of the subordinate commanders was willing to take the responsibility 
for the launch. General Spaatz quiedy and firmly issued the order lo go.'"" 

Sixteen combat wings of heavy bombers (over 1,000 bombers), all seven- 
teen AAF fighter groups (835 fighters), and sixteen RAF fighter squadrons (to 
assist in short-range penetration and withdrawal escort) began their takeoff runs, 
assembled, turned to the east, and headed for twelve major assembly and compo- 
nent plants that constituted the heart of Hitler's fighter production. As part of the 
largest force dispatched to date by the Eighth, six unescorted bomber wings flew a 
northern route to bomb targets near Posen and Tutow. The rest of the bomber 
force, escorted by the entire fighter force, flew toward Leipzig and Brunswick in 
centtal Germany. They would show up on German radar screens in time to attract 
the bulk of the fighter reaction to themselves and away from the northern force. 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

In addition, 135 medium bombers from the Ninth Air Force, two-thirds of 
which aborted because of weather, assisted by attacking airfields in western 
Europe. In contrast to the loss of 41 bombers against the same targets on January 
11, only 21 heavy bombers failed to return to base. The raid seriously damaged 
four plants manufacturing Ju 88 (night-fighter/bomber) aircraft in the Leipzig 
area and two plants manufacturing Bf 109 (day-fighter) aircraft. The AAF offi- 
cial history, basing its assertions on examination of postwar records, cited a 
delay of one month's production of Ju 88s and severe damage to about 32 per- 
cent of Bf 109 manufacturing capacity. But other official histories admitted that 
the raids, like most AAF raids, damaged the machine tools less severely than the 
buildings that surrounded them. Those tools, when cleared of rubble and dis- 
persed to other parts of Germany, would continue to produce more aircraft.' '"^ 

When the results reached Park House on the evening of February 20, Spaatz, 
according to one witness, was euphoric, "on the crest of the highest wave he had 
ever ridden."! 18 That evening Spaatz gave all the credit to Anderson for having 
persevered in his fight to save the mission. 1 

For the next five days, until the weather once again closed in, the Eighth and 
the Fifteenth Air Forces fought their way to and from targets deep inside the 
Nazi homeland. The Luftwaffe reacted savagely, provoking heavy and pro- 
longed combat with great attrition on both sides. The Fifteenth Air Force, which 
lacked P-51s, lost 89 bombers, compared with 158 lost by the Eighth, but actu- 
ally suffered a higher percentage loss. 120 in all, USSTAF lost at least 266 heavy 
bombers, 2,600 air crew (killed, wounded, or in German hands), and 28 
fighters. 121 Almost half of those losses occurred on the last two missions, when 
the Germans took advantage of mistakes that left the bombers unescorted or 
underescorted.122 in February, the Eighth wrote off 299 bombers, one-fifth of its 
force, 123 whereas the Luftwaffe wrote off more than 33 percent of its single- 
engine fighters and lost almost 18 percent of its fighter pilots. 124 

According to the AAF official history, the damage inflicted by the week's 
missions caused a two-month delay in German fighter aircraft production. 125 At 
the end of February, Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch, in charge of aircraft 
production, informed Albert Speer, German Minister for Armaments Produc- 
tion, that he expected the March production figures to equal only 30 to 40 per- 
cent of the February total. 126 As a result of this meeting, the two set up a 
"Fighter Staff to push through a large increase in fighter production. The 
Fighter Staff estimated that, at the time of its establishment at the end of 
February, 70 percent of the original buildings of the German aircraft industry had 
been destroyed. Damage to machine tools was less severe. 127 

The delay in German fighter production was even more significant than the 
actual number of fighters never produced. By the time the aircraft industry 
recovered in late spring and early summer, the Luftwaffe's situation had totally 
changed. The Eighth Air Force's attacks on German synthetic oil targets, begun 
in May 1944, produced severe aviation gasoline shortages, which resulted in 


Defenders of the Reich, in increasingly desperate efforts to stem Allied attacks on German 
industries and cities, the Luftwaffe relied on a collection of new and aging aircraft, tlie older of 
whicli were pressed into new roles. Clockwise from above: The veteran Ju 88 medium bomber, 
shown with the search antenna of Liechtenstein airborne radar, served as a night fighter to 
counter RAF incursions. A second antenna in the starboard wing homed on warning radar in 
the tails of British bombers. Radar also appeared in the night-fighting version of the Bf 110 
(opposite, top), some of which could fire on enemy aircraft overhead with a unique upward-aim- 
ing cannon. The Bf 109 (opposite, middle), in production since 1937, had evolved by 1944 into a 
nearly 400-mph fighter armed with machine guns and a 30mm cannon. The lightweight, nim- 
ble, and heavily armed FW 190 (opposite, below), introduced in 1941, outclassed the early 
Spitfire but was handily mastered by later Allied fighters such as the P-47 and P-51. The 
world's first mass-produced jet fighter, the Me 262 Swallow (Schmdbe) (below), entered combat 
in June 1944. As an interceptor the Me 262 carried four 30mm cannon and flew at 540 mph. 
Adolf Hitler unwittingly reduced its effectiveness by decreeing that the new aircraft be used 
solely as a bomber. 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

the catastrophic curtailment of training programs and operations. By July 1944, 
hundreds of the newly assembled fighters were grounded from lack of fuel. Had 
they been delivered in April or May when fuel was available, they might have 
made Pointblank a more risky undertaking. 

Big Week also affected replacement production by persuading the German 
leadership and aircraft industry to undertake a large-scale and immediate disper- 
sal program. This program eventually rendered the aircraft industry relatively 
invulnerable to bombing, but it caused more production delays and increased 
indirect labor costs by 20 percent '28 while heightening demands on the German 
railway system. This situation further strained the economy and left production 
even more dependent on uninterrupted transportation.l29 

Although postwar research has shown that the missions between February 
20 and 25 accomplished less than was originally estimated by the Allies, what 
made Big Week "big" was not the physical damage inflicted on the German 
fighter industry and front-line fighter strength, which was significant, but rather 
the psychological effect it had on the AAF. In one week, Doolittle dropped 
almost as much bomb tonnage as the Eighth had dropped in its entire first year. 
At same time, Bomber Command conducted five heavy raids over Combined 
Bomber Offensive targets losing 157 heavy bombers for a loss rate of 6.6 
bombers per 100 sorties, which slightly exceeded the American rate of 6 
bombers per 100 sorties. 130 in trial by combat, the AAF had shown that dayUght 
precision bombing not only operated as claimed, but at no greater cost than the 
supposedly safer and less accurate night area bombing. What is more, USSTAF, 
thanks to its fighter escorts, claimed the destruction of over 600 enemy aircraft, 
while Bomber Command could claim only 13.131 

In their own minds, Spaatz and other high-ranking American air officers had 
validated their belief in their chosen mode of combat. Spaatz fairly glowed in a 
letter he sent to Arnold summarizing the month: "The resultant destruction and 
damage caused to industrial plants of vital importance to the German war effort 
and to the very existence of the German Air Force can be considered a conspicu- 
ous success in the course of the European war."i32 Spaatz went on to compare 
the relative contributions of the month by both the AAF and the RAF. The 
Eighth flew 5,400 more sorties than Bomber Command and dropped some 5,000 
more tons of bombs, all with a lower loss rate.i33 The AAF had come of age; 
the long buildup in Britain had produced results at last: 

During the past two years as our forces slowly built up and the RAF carried the 
■ great part and weight of attack some circles of both the Government and the 
general public have been inclined to think that our part in the battle was but a 
small one. I trust that this brief comparison of effort will enable you to erase 
any doubts that may exist in some minds as to the great importance of the part 
now being played by the United States Army Air Forces in Europe in the task 
which has been set us — the destruction of Germany's ability to wage war."* 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

Although the Luftwaffe fighter force actually increased its bomber kills in 
March and April, Big Week, in the minds of Spaatz and other U.S. airmen, was 
the beginning of the end for the German daylight fighter. Most of the American 
airmen in Europe probably agreed with USSTAF's Assistant Director of 
Intelligence, Col. Richard D'O. Hughes, who said three weeks later, "I consider 
the result of the week's attack to be the funeral of the German Fighter Force. "135 
According to Hughes, USSTAF now realized that it could bomb any target in 
Germany at will — a realization that led USSTAF and Spaatz to begin the hunt 
for the one crucial target system to bomb, now that the first objective, the sup- 
pression of the Luftwaffe, seemed to have been accomplished.l36 in short order 
they agreed on the German synthetic oil industry as that critical target system. 

The Transportation Plan and Air Command Arrangements 

No spent .50-caliber brass shell casings littered the hallways of WroEWlNGS, 
Park House, Norfolk House, Stanmore, or the Air Ministry at Whitehall, nor did 
hospital wards receive a single casualty. Yet from late January to late March, 1944, 
Spaatz and Harris, supported at times by Winston Churchill, engaged in a heated 
dispute with Leigh-Mallory, his AEAF staff, and Overlord's planners over the con- 
tribution expected of the strategic air forces in supporting preparations for the inva- 
sion of France. Eisenhower and Tedder, as hardly disinterested parties, refereed this 
dispute with varying degrees of impartiality. Each of the contestants took up distinct 
positions, which, depending on the fortunes of his own command, his commitment 
to the invasion, and the imminence of the invasion date, he defended at length. 

Unlike Harris, Spaatz never questioned the basic premise that at some point 
prior to the invasion his force should come under the direct control of the Supreme 
Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. Naturally, given his personal and pro- 
fessional biases, he differed, at times sharply, with Leigh-Mallory and others over 
the timing, the direction, and the degree of effort demanded of his forces. 

Spaatz insisted that any plan adopted must lead, at least, to air parity over 
the invasion area by the time the troops left their ports to hit the beaches. 137 He 
believed that his forces should begin close assistance to the invasion sixty days 
before launching. Support begun earlier would duplicate effort and perhaps neu- 
tralize the effects of his strategic bombing campaign against Germany by pre- 
venting any follow-up of the blows he intended to deliver. Spaatz also believed 
that USSTAF possessed sufficient forces to devote a large simultaneous effort to 
the invasion and to the strategic campaign. He would resist any invasion plan 
that he believed would require his forces to participate beyond the point of 
diminishing returns. Overconcentration of effort on preinvasion operations 
would threaten the painfully gained momentum of his strategic campaign and 
thereby deny him the chance to try to defeat Germany by air power alone. 

Spaatz 's determination to support the invasion and to do all in his power to 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

achieve its success did not keep him, as an air strategist, from questioning its 
basic utility. In November 1943, according to Capt. Harry Butcher, Eisen- 
hower's naval aide, Spaatz told President Roosevelt's adviser, Harry Hopkins, 
that, given three months of clear weather, he could defeat Germany and render 
the invasion unnecessary. Therefore, he favored, as a better investment, the 
strengthening of Allied forces in Italy to gain the Po River Valley and position 
the bombers even closer to Germany. 138 

After the war, Spaatz implied that Butcher had not gotten his argument 
"quite straight" and claimed that, instead of mounting the vast, expensive cross- 
channel operation, he favored "sweeping around" to and through the Balkan 
states.139 This somewhat Churchillian strategy of attacking upward from south- 
em Europe reflected Spaatz's doubts about the possibility of gaining and main- 
taining another successful lodgment in Europe in the face of determined opposi- 
tion. The Salerno campaign had come close to failure against an enemy not 
nearly so well prepared or fortified as would probably be encountered in France. 

In mid-February, Spaatz, in a private conversation with the U.S. Ambassa- 
dor to England, John G. Winant, detailed his fear that the Germans would volun- 
tarily shorten their extended defense line on the Eastern Front, freeing fifty to 
seventy-five divisions, "which would have a good chance of destroying any 
force we put on the continent."140 At the same time, he expressed his mistrust of 
what he viewed as Leigh-Mallory's overconcentration on the invasion's tactical 
air power. Spaatz did not see the possibility of a successful assault if the ground 
troops had only the benefit of air power applied tactically for their immediate 
support. "Strategic bombing of sufficient intensity is necessary first," Spaatz 
believed: "The landing of ground troops should be the pushing over of a top- 
pling wall."l4l He would, naturally, resent attempts to cut back the Combined 
Bomber Offensive before it had undermined the German war economy. 

As late as April 10, Spaatz, in a conference with Vandenberg, who had 
arrived in London to assume the post of the senior American officer and Deputy 
Commander of Leigh-Mallory's Allied Expeditionary Air Force, questioned the 
whole basis for Overlord and suggested alternatives. He characterized the 
operation as "highly dangerous." Its outcome was "extremely imcertain," and its 
failure would "have repercussions which may well undo all of the efforts of the 
strategic bombing efforts to date." H2X enabled USSTAF to bomb through 
overcast, overcoming its greatest obstacle, weather, and, hence, provided one 
more reason not to launch Overlord. Spaatz continued: 

If I were directing overall strategic operations, I would go into Norway where 
we have a much greater chance of ground force success and where I believe 
Sweden would come in with us. Then, with air bases in Sweden, we would 
attack Germany from four sides (U.K., Italy, Russia and Sweden) simultane- 
ously. Why undertake a highly dubious operation in a huny when there is a 
surer way to do it as just outlined? It is better to win the War surely than to 
undertake an operation which has . . . great risks. 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

This curious proposal of Spaatz's may have had, if successful, the geopoliti- 
cal advantages of denying Swedish iron ore and ball bearings to the Germans 
and of closing the Baltic, while imposing upon the Germans the requirement to 
defend another large air sector. The proposal revealed not only a complete rejec- 
tion, if not a basic misunderstanding, of the whole ground strategy behind 
Overlord, but also an abysmal ignorance of international relations. The Swedes 
probably would not have declared war on Germany because of the Allied libera- 
tion of Norway, nor would the Soviets have regarded such an operation as the 
long-promised Second Front. This implausible scheme, apparently never seri- 
ously advocated by Spaatz, illustrates that he hoped to conquer Germany from 
the air and to avoid a large and costly land campaign in northwestern Europe. 
Spaatz also feared that the supremacy the AAF had gained in daylight might 
fade abruptly if the Germans introduced jet-propelled fighters. Spaatz even 
doubted the fighting capacity of U.S. groimd forces. His North African experi- 
ence had "indicated the inability of American troops to cross areas heavily 
defended by land mines, and ... the beaches of Overlord are certain to be 
more heavily mined than any area in Africa."l43 

Spaatz did not allow his doubts about the utility and feasibility of the cross- 
channel invasion to handicap him in the performance of his duties. His fears, 
though broad, were not often deep. It is a measure of his self-confidence and 
sense of duty that he did not allow his doubts either to unman him or to cause him 
to slacken his labors on behalf of the ultimate success of the invasion of France. 

Harris held views even less acceptable to Leigh-Mallory: (1) Bomber 
Command's operational limitations made it tactically incapable of hitting any 
night targets save those in the broad-based area bombing it already pursued, and 
(2) any switch from the current operational program would undo everything 
achieved to date, allowing Germany the time to harden and disperse its indus- 
tries and to use its production lines in an uninterrupted period just before the 
invasion. Thus, any subordination of Bomber Command to a detailed tactical 
plan might actually have a detrimental effect on Overlord. 

Two events, however, combined to undercut Harris's contentions. His win- 
ter bombing campaign over Germany encountered increasingly resourceful, 
accurate, and costly interception from the German night-fighter force, which, by 
the end of March 1944, had become tactically dominant. Bomber Command's 
losses mounted steeply and could no longer be sustained by its machines and air 
crews. 145 In the first three months of 1944 its losses from all causes were 796 
aircraft, compared with 348 in the same period in 1943.1^6 Then, in early March 
1944, Portal ordered a series of experimental night precision bombing attacks on 
French targets, including railway marshaling yards. These attacks produced out- 
standing results, unequivocally demonstrating the abilities of Harris's units to 
pulverize the Overlord targets scheduled for them. 1^7 By the end of March 
Harris had lost much of his credibility and with it a decisive voice in the prein- 
vasion air debate. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

The target of Spaatz's and Harris's fulminations, Leigh-Mallory, indomit- 
ably and in his own phlegmatic fashion, pressed for the adoption of the preinva- 
sion plans drawn up by the AEAF. He had originally assumed that, as comman- 
der of the air forces in direct support of the invasion, he would also assume the 
command of the strategic bomber forces when they passed to the control of the 
Supreme Commander. This assumption, which soon proved illusory, did not 
endear him to either Spaatz or Harris, nor did their opposition to Leigh- 
Mallory's claims endear them to him. The chief architect of the AEAF's plan, 
Professor Solly Zuckerman, a personal friend of both Tedder and Spaatz, had 
returned to London in January 1944 from the Mediterranean, where he had com- 
pleted his studies of the bombing campaigns in Pantelleria and Sicily. There he 
reached his own judgments about the effectiveness of the campaigns and the 
ways to improve upon them. In London, Zuckerman read the preliminary plan, 
which he judged inadequate, and he agreed to work with Leigh-Mallory's staff 
to prepare a new one. By the end of January, he had produced a plan fully 
accepted by Leigh-Mallory. 148 

Zuckerman, like Spaatz, Leigh-Mallory, Tedder, Portal, and most other 
preinvasion planners, started from the assumption that air superiority over the 
beachhead was a sine qua non. Therefore, he recognized the necessity for the 
continuation of Pointblank to promote the attrition of the Luftwaffe's fighter 
force. Similarly, he accepted as a given the diversion of resources to Crossbow. 
The professor then divided the remainder of the preinvasion bombing plan into 
three target systems: airfields, coastal defenses, and German lines of communi- 
cation. The bombing of the airfields 130 miles or less distant from the beach- 
head would begin approximately twenty-four days prior to the invasion; the 
bombing of coastal defenses would begin immediately before the assault. The 
campaign against communication lines would begin on March 1, ninety days 
before the invasion. The bombing of the German transportation system was the 
most controversial element of Zuckerman's plan. His studies had convinced him 
of the necessity of an intensive attack on the Belgian and northem French rail- 
way system, directed in particular at rail marshaling yards and associated main- 
tenance facilities. This attritional attack on the railways would so lower their 
carrying capacity that the German response in units and material to the invasion 
would be fatally slowed. Zuckerman's transportation bombing required the par- 
ticipation of all Allied air forces because of the large number of targets to be 
destroyed and kept suppressed. It also provided for 45,000 tons of bombs, out of 
an entire preinvasion program of 108,000 tons, to be dropped on the communi- 
cations system. In his estimates of the bomblift required to neutralize the system, 
Zuckerman called for the Eighth Air Force to supply 45 percent of the preinva- 
sion effort. Bomber Command, with a bomblift capacity 60 percent greater than 
the Eighth's, would supply 35 percent of the preinvasion effort, and the Ninth 
Air Force would supply the remaining 20 percent. Zuckerman allotted only 20 
percent of the Eighth's effort to Pointblank. 149 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

A captured German photo of damage to the Fieseler aircraft plant, Kassel, 
Germany, after RAF and Eighth Air Force raids. 

The AEAF plan's use of all available air power strongly appealed to both 
Eisenhower and Tedder, who found themselves in the position of having to yoke 
the AEAF, USSTAF, and Bomber Command into the invasion program. 
Eisenhower needed direct control over all available planes in Britain to guaran- 
tee their support for the invasion. He therefore sought a preinvasion air plan that 
could employ all available air forces. Tedder agreed. Unlike Leigh-Mallory, 
Harris, and Spaatz, each of whom was identified with a particular type of air 
warfare. Tedder had not risen to prominence through a fighter or bomber back- 
ground. Rather, he had come to the fore as a leader of large air forces consisting 
of all types of aircraft that cooperated closely, both strategically and tactically, 
with the overall theater conmiand. It was Tedder who had first called Zucker- 
man to the Mediterranean and then dispatched him to London to assist planning 
there. Tedder firmly believed in the professor's analysis of the lessons learned 
from the Mediterranean campaign and favored his plan.i^ 

On January 24, Zuckerman and Leigh-Mallory presented a draft of the 
scheme at a preinvasion air planning conference. Everyone agreed on the necessity 
of bombing the airfields and coastal defenses. This lines-of-communication bomb- 
ing proposal, or, as all concerned soon called it, the transportation plan, immedi- 
ately raised USSTAF's dander. USSTAF Assistant Director of Intelligence, Col. 
Richard D'O. Hughes, told Leigh-Mallory that Spaatz had already said "that a 
large percentage of his available bomber effort was available to assist Over- 
IjOrd." He went on to note that "if it were considered the right course of action," 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Spaatz was prepared to initiate attacks against rail targets in Germany immedi- 
ately with a priority second only to Pointblank. Leigh-Mallory then said he 
would have the Air Ministry issue a directive instructing the strategic forces to 
bomb such targets in Germany and would add some French rail targets to 
USSTAF's list, at which point Hughes began to object: the Eighth did not have 
the resources to bomb more than the thirty-nine German rail targets assigned to 
it; Crossbow had priority over northwest France when weather permitted; and 
the French rail targets did not have political clearance. Leigh-Mallory dis- 
counted Hughes's assertions. His proposed directive would not place responsi- 
bility for bombing the targets on USSTAF. He would consider anything 
destroyed in the next month as a bonus before the plan went into effect (March 
1). As for relief from Crossbow obligations and obtaining the political clear- 
ances to bomb France, he would arrange them.151 

As Hughes realized, Spaatz did not object to attacking rail yards in Germany. 
Such targets might lure the Luftwaffe into coming up to fight and could serve as 
secondary targets of opportunity when weather conditions over the primary tar- 
gets made bombing impossible after the start of a major raid. Such a program did 
not represent a major diversion of strategic forces from Pointblank. In contrast, 
marshaling yards in northwest France yielded none of the advantages of German 
targets. They interfered with USSTAF's secondary priority of Crossbow and, 
because of their position inland, did not constitute acceptable targets of opportu- 
nity for Crossbow diversions. Nor would the Luftwaffe be inclined to contest the 
air over French targets in strength. Finally, bombing French targets would have 
detrimental political effects for the Allies. When some bombs missed the yards 
and fell into populated areas, as they surely would, the Germans would gain free 
grist for their propaganda mills, while the Allies might earn the opprobrium of an 
occupied people whose goodwill could greatly benefit the invasion. ' 

Meanwhile, Leigh-Mallory 's use of the Ninth Air Force in aid of the strate- 
gic campaign and his oft-stated belief that the decisive battle for air supremacy 
would occur at the time of the invasion troubled Spaatz, who increasingly 
resisted placing his forces under the AEAF and a commander whose compe- 
tence he doubted and whose advocacy of the transportation plan he could not 
support. In a message he wrote, but did not send to Arnold, Spaatz remarked, 
"Proposal now under consideration for recommendation to CCS to place 
Strategic Air Forces (AAF) under Eisenhower nominally, actively under Leigh- 
Mallory, in immediate future. This places CG, USSTAF in impossible posi- 
tion."i52 A week later he informed Eisenhower, "I have no confidence in Leigh- 
Mallory 's ability to handle the job and ... I view with alarm any setup which 
places the Strategic Air Forces under his control." 153 Spaatz and USSTAF 
would take every opportunity to speak out against the transportation plan, sin- 
cerely believing that it misapplied their forces. They could not advocate command 
and control over strategic bombers by Leigh-Mallory. The two issues of tactical 
target selection and overall air command and control had become intertwined. 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

On February 15, after telling Eisenhower how he felt about Leigh-Mallory, 
Spaatz attended an air planning meeting at Stanmore, Middlesex, a London sub- 
urb and site of Leigh-Mallory 's headquarters. Leigh-Mallory, Tedder, Harris, F. 
L. Anderson, Butler, Hughes, and Zuckerman also participated in what became, 
at times, a heated discussion. Leigh-Mallory began the meeting by presenting a 
definitive version of Zuckerman 's bombing plan, which assigned 41 percent of 
the total preinvasion bomb tonnage to the transportation plan and only 1 1 per- 
cent to PoiNTBLANK. The Eighth Air Force would provide 45 percent of the total 
preinvasion bomb tonnage on all target systems, with Bomber Command con- 
tributing a total of 35 percent.* Spaatz, whose staff had received copies of the 
plan three days before the meeting and had prepared rejoinders, immediately 
said that the AEAF's plan "did not show a full understanding of the Pointblank 
operation. "154 Spaatz disagreed with the plan's premise that "air supremacy can- 
not be assured until the joining of the decisive air battle which will mark the 
opening of the Overlord assault."l55 Air supremacy must be achieved before 
the assault, Spaatz said, adding that the AEAF had not consulted USSTAF in the 
preparation of a plan that called for a massive commitment of strategic forces, 
and that such a plan would not be approved until USSTAF had the opportunity 
to participate in its development. 

Leigh-Mallory argued that the Luftwaffe would rise to prevent the destruc- 
tion of the rail system. Spaatz did not agree. The German fighter force might not 
take the bait, he said, and if it did not, he had to retain the authority to attack any 
target necessary to make the Germans fight — otherwise he could not accomplish 
his primary task of destroying the German fighter force. In other words, Spaatz 
would not agree to a scheme that allowed Leigh-Mallory to set his targets. 
Leigh-Mallory then suggested that the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the Supreme 
Commander settle the issue. 156 

Spaatz reemphasized the different phases of the Combined Bomber Of- 
fensive: (1) the destruction of the German fighter force, (2) the exploitation of 
that destruction to reduce the German will and means to continue the war, and 
(3) the direct support of the invasion. 157 Then Spaatz asked when the strategic 
air forces would come under Leigh-Mallory's operational control. Leigh- 
Mallory shot back, "March 1." At that point, according to Zuckerman, Spaatz 
commented, "That's all I want to know; I've nothing further to say."i58 
According to Colonel Hughes's minutes of the meeting, Spaatz told Leigh- 
Mallory that "he could not concur in a paper at cross purposes to his present 

Spaatz and Leigh-Mallory also wrangled over when the Luftwaffe would be 
destroyed. Leigh-Mallory again suggested that higher authorities settle the mat- 

* Forty-eight percent of the preinvasion tonnage apparently was assigned to airfields and 
coastal defenses. Likewise, the AEAF would apparently provide 20 percent of the total effort. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

ter. Spaatz said that "until a new directive was issued to him, he felt compelled 
to make recommendations as to the proper employment of the forces imder his 
command to higher authority."'60 

Leigh-Mallory and Harris engaged in an equally unproductive dialogue con- 
cerning Bomber Command's role. Harris reiterated his prediction that the trans- 
portation plan would not succeed and that the air forces would be blamed for its 
failure. Finally, Spaatz entered the fray once again to reject the tonnage and 
effort figures in the plan. At this point, Tedder proposed a joint planning com- 
mittee, as Spaatz had suggested earlier, with representation from USSTAF, 
Bomber Command, and the AEAF "to draw up a plan to suit the capabilities of 
all concemed."l6l All present accepted Tedder's recommendation. 

After the meeting, Spaatz and Tedder had more talks in which they agreed 
not to request a change in the current Combined Bomber Offensive directive until 
the planning committee produced a scheme acceptable to all parties; meanwhile 
the current command system would apply. Spaatz also informed Tedder "that 
Americans would not stand for their Strategic Air Forces operating under Leigh- 
Mallory."162 For the Americans the suggestion that they come under Leigh- 
Mallory 's control was not just a function of their mistrust of the Commander of 
the AEAF. The shifting of their priorities to Overlord by March 1 would under- 
cut the strategic bombing campaign. Spaatz had originally assumed that March 1, 
which he had accepted as the date of USSTAF 's beginning operations under 
Overlord, would mark a period sixty days before an early May invasion, but the 
possible postponement of the invasion until June confronted him with a ninety- 
day delay in the strategic campaign if he remained committed to a March 1 date. 
As of February 15 USSTAF had not yet accomplished even its minimum strate- 
gic goals. To have the transportation plan proposed to USSTAF before the 
Luftwaffe's fighter force had been defeated or the destructive effects of bombing 
on the German economy proved was unacceptable. Already frustrated by the 
weather, which prevented his forces from going after the Germans, and pres- 
sured by Washington to push the Combined Bomber Offensive home, Spaatz 
naturally reacted sharply to another threat to the success of his strategic mission. 

Two days after the February 15 meeting, Eisenhower met with Spaatz. 
Eisenhower had already explained to Marshall that he intended to have his "Air 
Preparation" plan accepted as "doctrine" by everyone under his control, includ- 
ing Spaatz, whose previous complaints conceming Leigh-Mallory he found 
worrying. Eisenhower, quietly attempting to change Spaatz's mind, suggested 
that "proper credit had not been given to Leigh-Mallory' s intelligence." Spaatz 
stood firm, indicating to Eisenhower that his views "had not and would not 

A draft press release from the Ninth Air Force that afternoon added fuel to 
the fire. The release described Leigh-Mallory as the "Air Commander in Chief." 
Spaatz promptly complained to Tedder, who replied, reasonably enough, that the 
term had already been released previously. This response failed to satisfy 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

An Avro Lancaster, backbone of RAF Bomber Command, 1943-1945. "Lanes" had 
impressive payloads, but weak defensive armament and protection. 

Spaatz. He then called Harris, who supported his position. Through their com- 
bined pressure the offending phrase was squelched. 

Later that day, Spaatz, Anderson, Hughes, and Col. C. P. Cabell (one of 
USSTAF's representatives on the Joint Planning Committee) had dinner at Park 
House with Zuckemian. Unlike many of his staff and other ranking American 
air officers, Spaatz never let his intense opposition to the transportation plan turn 
into antagonism against the plan's creator. Zuckerman recorded that Spaatz dur- 
ing the dinner asked him why didn't he stop working "with that man Leigh- 
Mallory and join us?"165 in a discussion after dinner, the Americans attempted 
to explain their position to the professor. They emphasized the importance of 
continual missions over Germany and expressed their hope to have at least a 
small force over Germany every day and a larger one when weather permitted 
visual bombing. In any case, the small forces, in seeking visual targets through 
the clouds, would hit small German towns and their marshaling yards, destroy- 
ing both with, they hoped, important effects. 166 Their unsystematic method 
failed to convince Zuckerman, whose plans, as the Americans well kpew, 
required extensive bombing of French targets by the strategic forces. 

On February 19, Eisenhower and Spaatz met again to review air command 
arrangements. Eisenhower asked Spaatz how the current system could be made 
to work with Leigh-Mallory in his present position. Spaatz replied that no sys- 
tem that left Leigh-Mallory in command of the strategic air forces would 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

work.167 He recommended as "the only practical solution" the formalization of 
the Joint Planning Committee, which was already working on the Pointblank 
program and on a plan to merge it into Overlord. After he and Harris had 
ensured that this plan conformed to the limitations and capabilities of their 
forces,l68 the CCS could issue a new bombing directive redefining target priori- 
ties and transferring the strategic air forces to Eisenhower's direction. Spaatz 
implied he would not approve any plan that allowed Leigh-Mallory control of all 
air operations for an extended period prior to the invasion. He conceded, of 
course, that "plans for the employment of Air in the actual assault of Overlord, 
including the softening immediately prior thereto, must of necessity be drawn up 
by Leigh-Mallory, with representatives from RAF Bomber Command and 
USSTAF familiar with the capabilities of these forces."l69 While Spaatz did not 
object to Leigh-Mallory 's operating within his own area of expertise, he was 
determined to have a voice in the use of U.S. forces. 

Eisenhower accepted this plan with two modifications. He asked that Portal 
have representation on the committee, and second, that from time to time the 
plan be checked against actual bombing results and modified if necessary. These 
changes brought the RAF Chief of Staff formally into the process, increasing the 
probability that the RAF and the CCS would approve any plan drawn up by the 
committee. Portal would also balance Harris, who tended to operate semi-inde- 
pendently. Eisenhower's second change allowed him the flexibility to change 
air plans as events dictated, l "70 

Spaatz apparently assumed that this agreement with Eisenhower would enable 
him to carry Pointblank a step or two closer to completion. Later that day, after 
lamenting, "Operations this week insignificant because of weather," he summa- 
rized for Arnold the February 15 meeting and the new agreement with Eisen- 
hower. Spaatz emphasized his fear of a "premature shifting from Pointblank to 
direct preparation for Overlord and its consequent indication of willingness to 
delay attainment of air supremacy until air battle over beachhead." He also 
noted that Eisenhower would insist on putting RAF and AAF strategic forces 
under his own control. i"?! In his reply, Arnold wholeheartedly agreed with 
Spaatz that "premature diversion of Pointblank and failure to achieve air 
supremacy prior to the assault would have tragic results." Arnold further 
approved of Eisenhower's gaining some measure of control of the strategic air 
forces.172 Fortified with Arnold's support, Spaatz prepared to fight for a contin- 
uation of the Combined Bomber Offensive. 

As Spaatz and Eisenhower reached their agreement, Harris introduced a new 
complication. He appealed directly to Churchill to prevent the subjugation of 
Bomber Command to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary 
Force, especially if that meant control by Leigh-Mallory. 

Spaatz 's and Harris's fractious attitude had so discouraged Eisenhower's 
second in command, Tedder, that he wrote to Portal on February 22: 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

I am more and more being forced to the unfortunate conclusion that the two 
strategic air forces are determined not to play. Spaatz has made it abundantly 
clear that he will not accept orders, or even coordination from Leigh-Mallory, 
and the only sign of activity from Harris' representatives has been a series of 
adjustments to the records of their past bombing statistics, with the evident 
intention of demonstrating that they are quite unequipped and untrained to do 
anything except mass fire-raising on very large targets.'" 

Tedder went on to warn Portal that if the British Chiefs of Staff and Churchill 
continued to withhold Bomber Command from Eisenhower's control "very seri- 
ous issues will arise affecting Anglo-American co-operation in Overlord," 
issues that would result in "quite irremediable cleavage" between the Allies. 

On February 28, Eisenhower had dinner at No. 10 Downing Street with 
Churchill, whom he found impatient for progress on air planning and much dis- 
turbed at the thought of Leigh-Mallory 's commanding the strategic air forces. 
Eisenhower explained that he was waiting for a coordinated plan on which all 
could agree and requested that the Prime Minister refrain from acting on the 
matter. The next morning Eisenhower wrote a memo to Tedder urging him to 
work more quickly to complete a solid plan before the Prime Minister came "in 
this tiling with both feet."l77 This memo sounded the death knell for Leigh- 
Mallory's claim to command all air power cooperating with the invasion. 
Eisenhower wrote: 

I'm quite prepared, if necessary, to issue an order saying I will exert direct 
supervision of all air forces — through you — and authorizing you to use head- 
quarters facilities now existing to make your control effective. L.M.'s position 
would not be changed so far as assigned forces are concerned but those 
attached for definite periods or definite jobs would not come imder his com- 
mand [emphasis in original].'™ 

Even as Eisenhower signified his willingness to limit Leigh-Mallory to com- 
mand of only the U.S. Ninth Air Force and the British 2d Tactical Air Force 
Churchill waded into the air tangle. On February 29, the Prime Minister voiced 
his own ideas on Overlord's air organization. Tedder should serve as "the 
'Aviation lobe' of Eisenhower's brain," with the power to use all air forces tem- 
porarily or permanently assigned to the invasion in accordance with the plan 
approved by Eisenhower. Furthermore, Churchill charged Tedder to draw up, 
with the assistance of Leigh-Mallory 's AEAF staff, a plan satisfactory to the 
Supreme Commander. Leigh-Mallory would prepare plans and execute orders 
received from Tedder in Eisenhower's name. As Deputy Commander, Tedder 
would be empowered to issue orders to Spaatz, Harris, and Air Chief Marshal 
Sholto Douglas, head of Coastal Command, for any employment of their forces 
in Overlord sanctioned by the CCS.'^o This outline would eventually become 
the command structure accepted by the Allies. 

Churchill's minutes of February 29 may have suggested the solution for the 
chain of command for air, but Eisenhower foimd other sections of it objectionable. 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

Although the minutes admonished that "the 'Overlord' battle must be the chief 
care of all concerned, and great risks must be run in every other sphere and theater 
in order that nothing should be withheld which could contribute to the success," 
Churchill, in the same document, proceeded to violate his own dictum. "There can 
be no question," he ruled, "of handing over the British Bomber, Fighter, or 
Coastal Commands as a whole to the Supreme Commander and his Deputy." The 
three commands had other functions as well as those assigned by Overlord. In 
addition, Churchill felt that the CCS should retain the right to vary assignments 
to the invasion "should overriding circumstances render it necessary."l8l 

Upon reviewing these minutes, Eisenhower accepted Tedder's command 
role and responsibility for drafting an air plan, but balked at having anything less 
than total operational control of both strategic air forces. Further conversations 
with Churchill proved unfruitful. In the beginning of March, Eisenhower told 
Churchill that if Bomber Command did not come imder his control, he "would 
simply have to go home. "1^2 

Eisenhower conceded that Coastal Command, which occupied a lesser place 
in the invasion plan, could remain under separate control, but he insisted that 
Bomber Command receive its direction through the headquarters of the Supreme 
Commander, as agreed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Cairo in December 
1943. Portal, for his part, denied that the CCS had ever intended to place more 
than a portion of Bomber Command under Eisenhower. At this juncture, 
Churchill told Portal to negotiate an agreement with Eisenhower and indicated 
that he would accept whatever arrangement the two men agreed to. 183 in the 
end, during April, the strategic air forces came under Eisenhower's control. 

By the end of February 1944, Spaatz had only partially solved the basic 
problems confronting his command. Two months of bad weather had reduced 
the opportunity for visual daylight bombing of Germany to a handful of days. To 
their credit, Spaatz, Fred Anderson, Doolittle, and their men had taken maxi- 
mum advantage of those days to damage key German aircraft assembly and pro- 
duction targets. Those strikes, in conjunction with bombing-through-overcast 
missions, had pushed the loss rate of the German fighter force to an unsustain- 
able level. The Luftwaffe lost to all causes 12.1 percent of its fighter pilots in 
January and another 17.9 percent in February. Thus, in two months almost 
one out of every three of Germany's fighter pilots had been killed or disabled, 
including some of its most skilled aviators. Wastage of machines was high, too. 
Luftwaffe fighter units wrote off 33.8 percent of their total strength in January 
and another 56.4 percent in February, a 90 percent turnover in two months. 185 
The Eighth, too, had suffered severely, losmg 211 heavy bombers (19.5 percent 
of its force) in January and 299 (20.2 percent of its force) in February.l86 The 
Eighth also lost 172 fighter akcraft in combat and 190 fighter pilots to combat or 
accidents for the first two months of the year. 187 

Spaatz, however, thanks to resources of men and materiel reaching him, not 
only sustained such losses but actually increased his strength on hand. His com- 


The Luftwaffe Engaged 

mand had not brought the Luftwaffe to earth, but had substantially weakened it. 
In those two months a measure of confidence returned to the Eighth, which, 
thanks to increasing numbers of long-range escort-fighters, was no longer afraid 
to fly deep into Germany. This restoration of spirit, the attrition of the Luftwaffe, 
and the damage to Germany's air industry, although not decisive in themselves, 
were three large steps toward the accomplishment of Pointblank. 

In comparison with the steady strides forward on the operational side of the 
war, Spaatz and USSTAF remained enmeshed in disputes concerning the trans- 
portation plan and air command arrangements. The latter, at least, gave some 
hope of speedy resolution, while the former would drag on, not completely 
resolved, almost until the invasion. 


Chapter 10 

The Luftwaffe Defeated 
(March-April 1944) 

A concentrated effort against oil, which would represent the 
most far-reaching use of strategic air power that has been 
attempted in this war, promises, I believe, more than any 
other system; a fighting chance of ending German resistance 
in a shorter period than we have hitherto thought possible.' 

— Spaatz to Arnold, March 6, 1944. 

In the three months before the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the 
AAF gained daylight air superiority in the skies above occupied Europe and 
Germany and began a campaign against the Axis oil industry, the success of 
which contributed greatly to preinvasion air preparations. Neither of these tasks 
proved easy. The Germans opposed each step with their usual dogged resistance, 
and disputes among the British and Americans threatened to misdirect the 
employment of Allied air power, dissipating its force and jeopardizing the 
accomplishment of the goals before it. Spaatz, as the senior AAF officer in the 
European Theater oif Operations, played a key role in these events by his super- 
vision of the U.S. air effort and by his participation as the chief AAF representa- 
tive in Europe in the contentious negotiations that worked out Allied air 
command arrangements (See Chart 6, Chain of Command, Allied Expeditio- 
nary Force, April 7, 1944.) and U.S. strategic air forces contributions to preinva- 
sion bombing. 

Air Command Arrangements for Overlord Are Settled 

In the beginning of March, the Allies settled the air command arrangements 
for Overlord. Tedder served as go-between as the British Chief of the Air 
Staff, Portal, and the American Supreme Commander, Eisenhower, wrestled to 


Chart 6 

Chain of Command, Allied Expeditionary Force 
April 1, 1944 

Air Ministry 

War Office 


Administration Logistics Support 


General Eisenhower 

U. S. Naval Forces in Europe 

Admiral Stark - 12th Fieet 

Administration Logistics Support 


Admiral Ramsay 



Supreme Commander AEF 

General Eisenhower 

Deputy Supreme Commander AEF 

Air Chief Marshal Tedder 

21 Army Group 

General Montgomery 



Air Chief Marshal 


Lt Gen Spaab 











Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory 








Force G 


Force J 


R Adm 


Follow Up 
Force L 
R Adm 



2d ARMY 









Force O 
R Adm 

Force U 
R Adm 

Follow Up 
Force B 


R Adm 


Lt Gen . 


idlan I 

IDC • 













A/B Div 
Maj Gen 

A/B Div 

Maj Gen 


Mulberry A 

U. S. 


Maj Gen 



Maj Gen 


Maj Gen 



Maj Gen 








Gp Capt 




A/B Div 

Brig Gen 

A/B Div 

Maj Gen 

MB Brig 

Brig Gen 


Ll Gen 

Air Comd 

Maj Gen 


Brig Gen 

S. E. 


Air Dep 

Brig Gen 

Air Comd 

Brig Gen 


Brig Gen 


Brig Gen 

Operational Direction 
Administrative Direction 

Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

reconcile their differences. Portal, following Churchill's dictates, sought to pre- 
serve some autonomy for RAF Coastal, Fighter, and Bomber Commands, 
whereas Eisenhower wished for complete control, particularly of Bomber 
Command. By March 9, Portal produced a draft agreement incorporating ele- 
ments of both positions. Eisenhower described it as "exactly what we want,"2 
and a day later informed Marshall, "All air forces here will be under Tedder's 
supervision as my agent and this prospect is particularly pleasing to Spaatz."3 

Spaatz wrote to Arnold in a similar vein, "I feel that this is a logical, work- 
able plan and, under the conditions which exist, cannot be improved upon."4 
Tedder would coordinate the operation of the strategic forces in support of the 
invasion, and Leigh-Mallory, under Tedder's supervision, would coordinate the 
tactical air plan. Eisenhower accepted the right of the Combined Chiefs or the 
British Chiefs to impose additional tasks on the strategic forces if necessary. 
Finally, once assault forces had established themselves on the Continent, both 
parties agreed to undertake a revision of the directive for the employment of the 
strategic bomber force.^ 

The British then passed the draft agreement to the Combined Chiefs. In their 
covering memos, the British stated that when the air plan for support of 
Overlord met the approval of both Eisenhower and Portal, acting in his capac- 
ity as the agent of the Chiefs for the Combined Bomber Offensive, "the respon- 
sibility for supervision of air operations out of England of all forces engaged in 
the program, including the United States Strategic Air Force and British Bomber 
Command, together with any other air forces that might be made available, 
should pass to the Supreme Commander."^ Eisenhower and Portal would jointly 
supervise those strategic forces not used by the invasion in accordance with 
agreements they had previously reached. The British Chiefs added that, at pre- 
sent, they had no plans to use the reservations inserted into the agreement, and, 
if they did, they would immediately inform the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.^ 

The U.S. Joint Chiefs balked at once. This proposal did not give Eisenhower 
unquestioned control of the strategic air forces. The British protested that the 
Supreme Commander himself found the plan acceptable — to no avail. Even 
Eisenhower had second thoughts and insisted on untrammeled control of the 
strategic bombers for the invasion period. Once again, he thought of resigning if 
the matter continued to drag on ad infinitum.^ On April 7, barely two months 
before the invasion, the Combined Chiefs agreed that the strategic air forces 
would operate under the Supreme Commander's "direction." This was appar- 
ently less ambiguous than allotting him "the responsibility for supervision." At 
the same time, the Combined Chiefs approved, with a few exceptions on targets, 
the air plan developed for the invasion. Formal direction of the strategic air forces 
passed to Eisenhower on April 14,9 confirming the informal command structure 
already in place. 


The Luftwaffe Defeated 

The Dispute over Strategic Targeting 

Simultaneously, the strategic air forces, through their representatives on the 
Joint Planning Committee for the Overlord air plan, spent much of March 
arguing the merits of Zuckerman's transportation plan versus USSTAF's oil 
plan. The strategic air forces would come into the Supreme Commander's hands 
only after approval of the air preparation plan. Until the airmen could agree on a 
plan, the formalization of the air command structure would hang fire. 

For practical purposes, however, the strategic air commanders had no inten- 
tion of actually employing their veto. Spaatz and, by now, even Harris accepted 
the necessity of some strategic support for the invasion. Moreover, Eisenhower 
would surely override any veto by appealing to the CCS, who would defer to him 
in any matter directly touching on the success of the invasion. Their veto power 
gave the strategic air commanders leverage in obtaining a command system and a 
plan for air employment more in keeping with their own ideas than might other- 
wise have been possible. Although their positions were not invulnerable, 
Ejsenhower would find it difficult and very disruptive to replace them with more 
malleable commanders, who would probably lack their expertise and prestige. 

By late February, Spaatz and others had recognized that the Combined Bomber 
Offensive had progressed to a point, thanks to the attrition of the Luftwaffe's 
fighter forces inflicted in January and February, at which time the destruction of 
targets other than the German aircraft industry was not only feasible but desir- 
able. Spaatz thus ordered the formation of a USSTAF planning committee to 
consider future actions. He did so partially in response to the transportation plan, 
which the AEAF had presented to him in February — a plan that USSTAF 
regarded as unsound. He laid down three guiding principles for the conmiittee: 
(1) the plan must provide for an- supremacy at the time of the invasion; (2) the 
plan should take into account a possible early collapse of Germany prior to the 
invasion; and (3) if Germany did not collapse, the plan should nevertheless 
make a maximum contribution to the success of Overlord.10 

With pressure for adoption of the transportation plan gaining momentum 
every day, Spaatz urgently required a viable alternative on which to base his 
opposition. He pushed the planning committee to complete its work; they pre- 
pared a final draft in thirty-six-hours, n presenting to Spaatz on March 5, a 
"plan for the Completion of the Combined Bomber Offensive." 

Quickly dubbed the oil plan it called for a "re-clarification" of Pointblank 
directives and, after examining ten discrete target systems, selected three 
German production programs — ^rubber, bomber aircraft, and oil. To those three, 
it added the already accepted targets of German fighter production and ball bear- 
ings. Oil received top priority followed by fighters and ball bearings, rubber, and 
bomber aircraft. The plan emphatically rejected railroad transport as a strategic 
target. Such a system had too many targets, had built in too much noncritical 
civilian traffic and long-term industrial traffic that could be suppressed or 



diverted before military traffic would be significantly reduced, and its destruc- 
tion would take too long to have a significant military effect. In contrast, the oil 
plan required fifteen days' visual bombing for the Eighth Air Force and ten for 
the Fifteenth Air Force.l2 

The plan assumed that flie destruction of only fourteen synthetic oil plants 
and thirteen refineries would account for more than 80 percent of production and 
60 percent of readily usable refining capacity. These losses would reduce the 
total German supply of fuel by 50 percent, thereby cutting materially "German 
military capabilities through reducing tactical and strategical mobility and front- 
line delivery of supplies and industrial abihty to produce weapons and supplies." 
Furthermore, the plan contended that the Germans, under fire, would immedi- 
ately reduce consumption of oil products in order to conserve their stocks. 13 This 
postulate, although logical, could not be verified by intelligence before the 
attacks. USSTAF insisted that the immediate cut would have great effects in the 
battle for the beachhead, but the oil plan's critics countered by claiming that it 
did not guarantee a significant impact on German fighting ability before the 
invasion assault. Almost everyone agreed that the plan had long-range potential 
devastating to the Nazis. Nonetheless, factors that improved the chances of the 
inraiinent invasion appealed more to Eisenhower than schemes that promised 
important but delayed benefits. 

The oil industry's configuration added to its suitability as a target system. 
Ploesti, the enemy's major source of natural petroleum, was vulnerable to the 
increasing power of the Fifteenth Air Force. Once operations there ceased, the 
synthetic oil plants of Germany would become the enemy's chief source of sup- 
ply. These plants, most of which were well within bomber range of Britain, con- 
stituted a compact target system. Their destruction would produce dramatic 
results before the cross-channel attack and leave an adequate reserve of unused 
American force avaUable for containing the aircraft industry or striking at other 
targets of opportunity, 

The synthetic oil plants also presented a practical bombing problem, which 
was not as important in early 1944, when strategic arnnen had only minimum 
disposable force, as it would become in the winter of 1944-1945, when they had 
enormous bomber fleets. For technical and logistical reasons the Germans had 
chosen to build their synthetic oil plants away from urban areas. These plants 
could only be bombed if they could be located by visual means. The American 
H2X radar's resolution or return was so inaccurate that it could only locate a city 
area. Although synthetic plants were huge, they were considerably smaller than 
a city. Hence, bombing oil plants meant using the very few days of visual bomb- 
ing weather to hit targets outside German cities. In the winter of 1944-1945 syn- 
thetic oil targets absorbed all visual bombing days. The Americans were left 
with litfle choice but to resort to H2X-assisted raids on targets within German 
cities for the majority of their bombing effort, with calamitous results for the 
German civilian population. 


The Luftwaffe Defeated 

Upon receiving the plan on the evening of March 5, Spaatz and his staff, as 
usual, began their discussion before dinner and continued it into the wee hours. 
Walt W. Rostow, then a first lieutenant in the Enemy Objectives Unit (EOU) of 
the Office of Strategic Services, which served as USSTAF's unofficial target 
intelligence section, recorded in 1981, "Despite the effort to emphasize, within 
the plan, the will to complete the attacks on the Pointblank systems. General 
Spaatz quickly appreciated that it was to all intents and purposes an Oil Plan." 
Spaatz then "explored at length the issues at stake, especially the capabilities of 
the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces with respect to the number of targets 
involved. He then ordered the plan completed for prompt presentation to Portal 
and Eisenhower."i5 

In sending the plan to Eisenhower, Spaatz stated his own views: "I consider 
that the plan provides for the optimum use of Strategic Air Forces between now 
and the time for close support in the immediate tactical area. Our calculations of 
the possible results are considered to be conservative." He added that the plan's 
results were "pitched in terms of so lowering the German fighting efficiency on 
existing fronts that the German ability safely to move strategic reserves will be 
impaired; and in the months following D-Day, the capacity of the German groimd 
annies effectively to continue resistance must inevitably be exhausted."i6 

The oil plan offered a strategically based rebuttal of the transportation plan. 
Another plan, drawn up by the EOU, challenged the transportation plan on tacti- 
cal grounds. EOU's plan called for the bombing of french supply dumps and 
bridges rather than rail marshaling yards. Both plans provided rallying points for 
the critics of Zuckerman's plan. The counterattack mounted by these critics 
brought Tedder fully into the field in support of the transportation plan because 
he might lose face if the Allies rejected it. He believed that the plan offered a 
partial solution to the air command difficulties by providing a set of targets 
requiring the coordination and cooperation of the strategic and tactical air forces. 
Tedder wrote Portal that in order to derive full use of Allied air power, he 
needed a target system based "on one common object toward which all available 
air forces can be directed. . . . Concentration against one common system, by 
both day and night, is essential." 17 Tedder's reasoning was, of course, apparent 
to the adherents of both plans. The oil plan allowed a non-centralized air com- 
mand system under which the strategic air forces would operate without close 
cooperation with the tactical air forces. The transportation plan required a uni- 
fied air command in order to yoke both the strategic and tactical air forces into a 
coordinated attack on a complex, wide-spread, resilient target system. 

The dispute between the adherents of the transportation plan and its oppo- 
nents, who criticized it on strategic and tactical grounds, continued until mid- 
May 1944. During a series of meetings held throughout March the transportation 
plan's detractors mobilized increasing opi>psition. Field Marshal Alan Brooke, 
Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the equivalent of the American Chamnan of 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others questioned the plan's effectiveness, as did 
segments of the British Air Staff and Ministry of Economic Warfare. Spaatz, on 
the day of the AAF's first major raid over Berlin, wrote Arnold enthusiastically: 

We do, however, feel sure that a new range of tactical possibilities in operation 
are open to us, and that it would be a misuse of our force and of the opportuni- 
ties we have created not to push strategic bombing to its ultimate conclusion, in 
that period available to us. A concentrated effort against oil, which would rep- 
resent the most far-reaching use of strategic air-power that has been attempted 
in this war, promises more than any other system, a fighting chance of ending 
German resistance in a shorter period than we have hitherto thought possible." 

Arnold began cudgelling his own superior, Marshall, to support the oil plan. 
In a memo dated March 13, he explained, "In view of the recent progress made 
against the GAP, the ball-bearing industry and Berlin, and the imminence of 
Overlord, it is evident such a plan is required." After denigrating plans based 
"upon only cold, mathematical-like tables of performance data [the transporta- 
tion plan]," Arnold concluded, "The tremendous force available to us must not 
be permitted to waste its substance on any but potentially decisive operations."20 

These pleas did not change Marshall's determination or that of the War 
Department to leave the major decisions concerning the military policy of the 
invasion to the invasion commander, Eisenhower. On March 16, the AAF Chief 
of Staff, Maj. Gen. Barney Giles, told Spaatz that because Portal, Harris, and, 
above all, Eisenhower had not committed themselves to the oil plan, the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff were unlikely to take action on it. He pointed out that the most 
recent CCS directive on strategic bombing already gave Spaatz the authority to 
start attacks against the systems he had selected. Then Giles asked for new ini- 
tiatives from Spaatz: 

What concerns us most here is whether or not you are going to be able to sell 
Eisenhower on the necessity for letting you go ahead with your Plan without 
insistence that you be diverted prematurely. I feel that if Eisenhower makes an 
issue of a system or of a date he will be backed up by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of 
Staff — so that places it right in your lap.^' 

In order to "sell" Eisenhower, Spaatz would have to "sell" Tedder, who had 
already told Portal, "I am frankly skeptical of the Oil Plan, partly because we 
have been led up the garden path before, partly because the targets are in diffi- 
cult areas . . . and partly because I am not sure of the real vulnerability of the 
new synthetic oil plants."22 On March 16 the Joint Bombing Committee met 
again. Tedder began the meeting completely in favor of the transportation plan, 
but the united opposition of the RAF Assistant Chiefs of Staff for Plans, Bomber 
Operations, and Intelligence caused him to waver and he, with Portal and 
Eisenhower, referred the transportation plan to the British Joint Intelligence 
Committee for review. Spaatz noted optimistically, "Hoped by all concerned 


The Luftwaffe Defeated 

here that Tedder will repudiate AEAF Plan of his own accord," an action that 
would avoid hard feelings all around.23 Tedder, however, did not abandon the 
transportation plan, even in the face of the Joint Intelligence Committee Report, 
which supported the oil plan. The latter report, according to Tedder, was based 
on unsubstantiated and invalid assumptions .24 

Meanwhile, Eisenhower had reached the end of his tether. If a meeting 
scheduled for March 25 did not decide between the competing plans, he stated, 
"I am going to take drastic action and inform the Combined Chiefs of Staff that 
unless the matter is settled at once I will request relief from this command."25 

At the March 25 bombing policy conference which would decide between 
the competing plans, Spaatz, Tedder, and Eisenhower were joined by Portal, 
Harris, Leigh-Mallory, and various intelligence officers and experts on Axis oil. 
During the preceding week Spaatz and Tedder had prepared and circulated briefs 
detailing their positions and had marshaled last-minute agreements to attract fur- 
ther support for their proposals. Apparently, Tedder persuaded Portal to back the 
transportation plan. Harris, too, gave the plan lukewarm support. He opposed the 
oil plan because he disagreed with the concept of designing a strategic bombing 
strategy around a single-target system. Choosing such a "panacea" diverted his 
forces from area bombing, which he thought was the most effective method of 
conducting the bomber offensive. In addition, British bomber operations in 
March demonstrated the night bomber's surprisingly high capability for the pre- 
cision bombing of marshaling yards while simultaneously revealing an alarming 
rise in the effectiveness of the German night-fighter force, which reached its 
apogee in the winter of 1943-1944 and inflicted "prohibitive" casualties. 26 
These two factors undercut Harris's original objections that he could not bomb 
precision targets and that city-busting raids offered a more decisive alternative. 

Spaatz, not to be outdone, took advantage of Baker's visit to London — they 
visited each other's headquarters monthly and coordinated bombing operations 
and policy — to use his friend's close ties with the British and his expertise to try 
to win converts to the oil plan. On the morning of March 25, Spaatz and Eaker, 
who had just stepped off his plane, went to lobby both Eisenhower and Tedder. 
After discussing air command arrangements in Britain and the proposed direc- 
tive for air support of Overlord, Eisenhower asked for Baker's views on the oil 
versus transportation debate. Although he declined to comment on the oil plan 
because he had not studied it, Eaker told Eisenhower that the Luftwaffe must 
receive top priority and recommended that no attacks on communications lines 
south of the Rhine should occur before D-day. His experience in Italy, said 
Eaker, had shown him that communication attacks, unsupported by sustained 
friendly ground action to pressure the enemy and force him to consume supplies, 
had little effect. The two AAF generals then spent an hour with Tedder going 
over the same subjects,27 but they did not change his mind. 

That afternoon Portal, chair of the bombing policy conference called on 
Tedder to present the transportation plan. During the presentation and the ensu- 


Spaatz and the Air War in Europe 

ing discussion three salient points emerged. First, all present agreed that the 
bombing of Luftwaffe targets, including ball bearings producers, had top prior- 
ity, and, therefore, the meeting would consider the allocation to a specific target 
system of only the effort remaining after bombing the highest priority system. 
Second, Tedder believed that only an all-out attack on the transport-action sys- 
tem would sufficiently disrupt enemy movement before and after D-day to give 
the invasion the greatest chance of success. Third, Eisenhower asserted that "the 
greatest contribution that he could imagine the air forces making" was the hin- 
dering of enemy movement and "that everything he had read had convinced him 
that, apart from the attack on the G.A.F., the Transportation Plan was the only 
one which offered a reasonable chance of the air forces making an important 
contribution to the land battle during the first vital weeks of Overlord." In fact 
he did not believe that there was any other "real alternative. "28 

Then the group examined the oil plan. Spaatz and F. L. Anderson, the only 
Americans present besides Eisenhower, presented their case. Several factors 
affected the manner of their exposition. Spaatz, congenial, even convivial, in his 
mess or at ease, usually performed woodenly at set-piece conferences,29 as he 
did at this one. He had already circulated his views in his brief and so he con- 
fined himself to reiterating three of its conclusions: (1) strategic attacks on the 
railways would not affect the course of initial battle or prevent movement of 
German reserves from other fronts, whereas the oil plan might do both; (2) 
attacks on the rail system would not, in an acceptable length of time, weaken 
enemy resistance on all fronts simultaneously, which the oil plan would do 
while it also hastened the postinvasion success of Overlord; and, most impor- 
tant, (3) attacks on rail targets would not provoke a strong reaction from the 
Luftwaffe, whereas attacks on oil targets would.30 This spare, straightforward 
presentation aided the advocates of the transportation plan. A presentation of 
EOU's tactical plan would have strengthened his case. 

As Rostow has pointed out, other organizational, bureaucratic, and personal 
factors also affected the presentation. Spaatz, because he commanded a strategic 
force, chose not to present the tactical plan, which would require the participa- 
tion of forces not imder his control. Althou